The Causes and Effects of the Flint Water Crisis

The Causes and Effects of the Flint Water Crisis




Flint is located in Michigan, seventy miles north of Detroit, with the majority of the population being African Americans. Before 1967, drinking water for Flint’s city was supplied from the Flint River but was later switched to Lake Huron (CNN Library, 2016). The water in the Flint River has been of poor quality because of pollution and contamination, including industrial complexes, watershed from farms, and landfills characterized by fertilizers and pesticides. In the 1970s, the quality of Flint’s River water was deemed poor because of the high levels of toxic substances, oil, plant nutrients, low dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform bacteria (Leonardi & Gruhn, 2001). The Flint water crisis started when supply was switched from Lake Huron to Flint River in Michigan. Following the switch, health effects resulting from fecal bacteria and lead poisoning were reported. The Flint water crisis has affected children and their parents because the drinking water is not only poor quality but also corrosive. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the causes and the effects of the Flint water crisis. The primary cause of the Flint water crisis was contamination of the water supply with lead and bacteria. The effects discussed are health, economic, and environmental effects.

Thesis statement: The Flint Water Crisis has affected the residents of Flint greatly by not only denying them access to clean and safe water, but by also affecting their health.

Causes of the Flint Crisis

The Flint water crisis started before April 25th, 2014 after the water supply from the main pipeline was changed by the government. The Flint Water Service Center (FWSC) stopped dispensing drinking water from the primary Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) plant. Instead, FWSC began to treat water at a facility located in Flint, Michigan. In achieving this, the FWSC changed the source waters to the Flint River from Lake Huron (Sellers, 2016). Following the change were complaints from the local residents related to changes in water taste, odor, and taste. In addition, the water was corrosive and affected the environment and the health of the people. By August 2015, the regulatory limits of water for E. Coli Bacterium were exceeded, and subsequently, chlorine disinfectant levels increased (Sellers, 2016). The water also had lead poisoning and carcinogens. The long-time contamination and pollution of the Flint River resulted to the Flint’s water crisis. Moreover, the water was red in color, which was as a result of iron and lead pipes corrosion. The corrosion of the peoples was as result of acidic water and other chemicals in the Flint River. Lead and iron seeped into the water supplied in Flint for drinking, resulting to a widespread lead poisoning (Sellers, 2016). The water was not treated to the optimal corrosion levels. The authorities established that the water was not clean for human consumption because it was nineteen times more corrosive compared to water from Detroit.

Effects of the Flint Crisis

The Flint water crisis has caused potent health crisis. For instance, the water is contaminated with lead and bacteria poisoning. Some of the effects of Flint Crisis following lead poisoning include: pain in the joints, behavior issues, insomnia, memory loss, irritation, constipation, loss of appetite and hyperactivity. As a result of the poisoning, the people of Flint have reported incidents of lack of sleep, suicidal ideation, and weak joints. Exposure of lead to children and adults is linked to problems associated with central nervous system, kidney, liver, and hear-related problems (Nolen, 2015). It is also associated with increased risks of developing liver and kidney cancer. Based on World Health Organization report, lead affects brain development among children, leading in reduction in intelligence quotient and educational attainment (Nolen, 2015). Also, the residents of Flint are at the risk of renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity which affect reproductive organs. Fecal bacteria have been linked to diarrhea and stomach-related complications. The blood lead levels in children under the age of five years have also increased following the flint water crisis.

Economic effects of the flint crisis are related to hospitalization of children and adults. According to Seller (2016), lead exposure has affected more than 6,000 children and adults. In addition, parents of the affected children and family members are economically derived, especially when they do not go work in order to look after the sick. It is estimated that lead exposure leads to $18million in health expenses and $2.5 million in training of affected children in special education (Burns, 2016). Additionally, the city of Flint has also been affected economically because it has to buy clean water for its residents. Employment in the water facility has also been affected, leading to possible unemployment in the region. In addition, the crisis has affected General Motors because the company has feared corrosion of major components because the water is corrosive. 

The flint water crisis is related to lead exposure which is one of the leading causes of environmental pollution. When iron, lead, and other metals seep into water in River Flint, aquatic animals and plants are also affected. The long-term effects of the Flint water crisis to the environment are detrimental.


This essay has explored the causes and effects of the Flint water crisis. The Flint Water Crisis continues to affect the residents of Flint and its environs greatly. For instance, it has denied the people access to clean and safe water, in addition to causing health problems related to lead poisoning. The primary cause of the Flint water crisis has been continued contamination of water in River Flint by effluents from industries, farms, fertilizers, pesticides, lead poisoning and carcinogens. Also, iron and lead pipes corrosion as result of acidic water and other chemicals contributed to the crisis. The effects linked with the Flint crisis are economic, environmental, and health related. For instance, lead poisoning and contamination of water in Flint River resulted into environmental contamination. Health issues include stomach problems, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity. As a result of lead poisoning and contamination, the water in Flint River has been contaminated, which makes it harmful for human consumption. 



References List

Burns, G. (2016). Doctor says Lead Testing Data Underestimates Long-Term Damage to Flint Kids. The Flint Journal. [Online] Available at: < http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2016/01/doctor_says_lead_testing_data.html> (Accessed 9 December 2016).

CNN Library. (2016) Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts. [Online] Available at: < http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/> (Accessed 9 December 2016).

Goodnough, A., & Atkinson, S. (2016). A Potent Side Effect to the Flint Water Crisis: Mental Health Problems [Online] Available at: < http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/us/flint-michigan-water-crisis-mental-health.html?_r=0> (Accessed 9 December 2016).

Leonardi, J.M., & Gruhn, W.J.  (2001). Flint River Assessment. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division, Special Report.27, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Nolen, L. (2015) Health Consequences of Flint's Water Crisis. Advance Healthcare Nurses. [Online] Available at: < http://nursing.advanceweb.com/Web-Extras/Online-Extras/Health-Consequences-of-Flints-Water-Crisis.aspx> (Accessed 9 December 2016).

Sellers, C. (2016). The Flint Water Crisis: A Special Edition Environment and Health Roundtable. [Online] Available at: < http://edgeeffects.net/flint-water-crisis/> (Accessed 9 December 2016). 



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