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The Flint water crisis

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Abstract The Flint water crisis is one of the most significant environmental contamination events in recent American history. In April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, while under the control of an emergency manager appointed by the governor, switched its drinking water supply from Lake Huron water treated and distributed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. Failure to treat the water properly at the Flint Water Treatment Plant led to a variety of problems with water quality and public health. Low chlorine in parts of the water system fostered bacterial growth and contributed to an historic outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014–2015. High levels of trihalomethanes brought the city into violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act in late 2014. Finally, systemic lead contamination—revealed through a collaborative sampling effort by local activists and engineers in the summer of 2015—resulted from corrosive water eating into lead pipes and other lead‐bearing components of Flint's water infrastructure. In October 2015, after considerable public pressure, the city switched back to Lake Huron water. Efforts by federal, state, and local officials to respond to the crisis have focused on restoring water quality, repairing and replacing dangerous and damaged pipes, and addressing public health needs. At the popular level, residents and activists have continued to fight for accountability, reparations, and restoration. A variety of causal explanations for the crisis have been put forward, some focusing on water treatment, regulation, and infrastructure, others on the political context created by state takeover of the city, and others on historical factors like structural racism, deindustrialization, and depopulation. This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Water Quality Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation Human Water > Water Governance

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Human Water > Water Governance
Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation
Science of Water > Water Quality

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