There’s been a lot of news over the future of Flint, Michigan, and what kind of aid the government will provide to improve the drinking water in the community. However, the issue isn’t just replacing lead pipes and creating a water source that’s safe for everyone. There will also be significant medical costs to treat high levels of lead in blood in addition to the long-term treatment costs for kids who suffer mental and developmental problems due to lead poisoning. Although it’s been a roller-coaster year for the community, this is a problem that started long before 2016. The University of Southern California Master of Public Health Online created this infographic to explain exactly what went wrong in the Flint water crisis.
Water problems in Flint actually began in July 2011, when the city of Flint commissioned a study to find a cheaper water supply than its current provider, the Detroit Water & Sewage Department. The city was facing a $25 million deficit for the year and needed a way to dramatically reduce costs fast. In June 2013, the city commissioned a study to determine whether water from the Flint River could be treated for drinking. Although the water was deemed corrosive, it was treated by labs and determined safe to drink.
Almost immediately after the switch, Michigan residents started noticing problems with their water — specifically, discoloration and a foul odor — and high levels of lead were discovered. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that people actually started taking the dangers seriously. The media picked up the story and government officials started paying attention. What started as a cost-cutting measure could be one of the most expensive mistakes in Michigan’s history.