Published Feb 3, 2016 at 3:44 PM | Updated at 10:28 PM EDT on Jun 13, 2019
The city of Flint, Michigan, was placed under a federal emergency declaration after it was discovered that residents were being delivered lead-contaminated water for over a year. The city had switched from Detroit's water system to untreated water from the Flint River in April 2014 as a money-saving measure. The decision was made by an emergency manager appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder when the cash-strapped city was placed under state control.
The corrosive Flint River water was not properly treated and led to metal leaching from the city's old pipes, contaminating drinking water for the nearly 100,000 residents of Flint. The FBI was called in to investigate. The National Guard and Red Cross distributed bottled water to residents in the wake of the crisis and screened children's blood for traces of lead – the neurotoxin has been linked to behavioral issues, learning disabilities and lower IQs.
The uproar over water quality reached a peak by fall 2015, when a doctor found high levels of lead in children.
Many residents in Flint said their complaints about lead-tainted water were downplayed or ignored, and many still question whether a disaster of such a scale would have happened to a wealthier, whiter community. Flint is 57 percent black and nearly 42 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty.