The Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan

Key Players

Marc Edwards – Virginia Tech University Researcher

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha – Hurley Medical Center Pediatrician

Rick Snyder – Governor of Michigan

Karen Weaver – Mayor of Flint

EPA – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

DEQ – Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

DHHS – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

DWSD – Detroit Water and Sewage Department

KWA – Karegnondi Water Authority


April – Despite concerns from the DWSD, Flint approves a plan to transfer its water service contract to the newly incorporated KWA.


April – Flint’s contract with the DWSD expires and the town switches to using Flint River water as an interim measure until the KWA pipeline is ready.

August – The first of numerous boil water advisories is issued after E. coli is detected in the Flint River water.

October – The General Motors engine plant in Flint stops using Flint water after noticing its corrosive effects on its machinery.


January – The DWSD offers to reconnect Flint to their water supply and waive the reconnection fee. Flint refuses.

University of Michigan’s Flint campus finds elevated levels of lead in its drinking fountains.

February – A resident contacts the EPA after tests reveal elevated lead levels in their home. The DEQ says Flint has an optimized corrosion-control program in place.

June – The EPA refers to the public health situation as a major concern and recommends that the DEQ assist Flint in its water management.

July – The DEQ says the issue is not widespread and restricted to just one house.

August – Edwards notifies the DEQ he will conduct a study on Flint’s lead levels.

September – Edwards finds that the corrosive river water is leaching lead from the pipes into the residential water supply. His findings are disputed by the DEQ.

Later that month, Dr. Hanna-Attisha conducts tests that show elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children.

At the end of September, Flint issues a lead advisory, but also claims it is within compliance of federal water safety regulations.

October – The DHHS replicates Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s study and confirms her findings. They declare a public health emergency and urge families not to use the water. Flint receives state funding for an emergency switch back to DWSD water.

December – Weaver declares a state of emergency. An independent task force finds the DEQ responsible for minimal oversight and neglect of the problem. The DEQ’s director and spokesperson resign.


January – The state of Michigan declares a state of emergency in Flint, allowing FEMA to step in and activating the National Guard to help distribute bottled water. Snyder agrees to release all emails about the issue, and the EPA takes over all water testing.

April – Three Flint officials are criminally charged. Legal action, however, is just the first step in addressing poor health outcomes from challenges like lead contamination. In addition to a host of immediate health effects, serious and long-term damage to the health of this community has already been done. Children in Flint – all of whom were likely exposed to contaminated water – are especially at risk, due in large part to the irreversible effects lead poisoning can have on developing brains and nervous systems. From behavioral and developmental disorders, to learning disabilities and motor-skill problems, these children are susceptible to issue that will hamper them for years or decades to come. Now is the time to expand the conversation around the flawed response systems and other factors that unnecessarily put Flint and other U.S. cities at risk.