Flint, Michigan: Timeline of Crisis

A complete and ongoing timeline of the Flint Michigan water crisis.


Mohss Elaine, Staff Writer

The water in Flint, Michigan has been lead contaminated since 2014. The contamination started when Flint’s water supply pipes became majorly corroded, leading the water to be exposed to lead and other harmful bacteria. Flint sought a cheaper water source than the one the city utilized, the Detroit water line, and chaos ensued.

Early 2014

Officials decided to build their own pipe to connect Flint’s water supply to another water source, the Flint River, believing that the source change would save the state over $20 million dollars over the next 25 years. While the plan was ordinated, city and state officials began to switch the Flint residents’ water supply to the Flint River water. In May of 2014, The residents of Flint began seeing a difference in the quality of their water, prompting residents to submit complaints. Despite continuous complaints, the project continued. Later in 2014, harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and Total Coliform, a bacteria  found in the waste of warm-blooded animals, were found in the water. Instead of switching back to the Detroit water system, the state encouraged the residents of Flint to boil their water prior to using it.  Meanwhile, city officials increased the chlorine levels of the water. In the summer of 2014, machinery businesses such as General Motors Corporation ceased using the Flint River as a proactive measure to prevent the water from corroding their machines, as high chlorine levels will corrode metal.


During the earliest months of 2015, even more harmful bacteria was found in the Flint River water. The bacteria included high levels of disinfection byproducts,  extreme health hazards, not to mention severe violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Officials responded by buying bottled water for the employees of government offices. Multiple residents’ homes showed high levels of lead in their water, one specific case, at resident Lee Anne Walters’s home, reported water lead content 104 parts out of a billion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standard for lead in drinking water is 15 parts out of a billion. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), was contacted by Michigan Radio in early August and MDEQ spokesperson Brad Wurfel stated, “Let me start here…anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax,” and that “It does not look like there is any broad problem with the water supply freeing up lead as it goes to homes.” Residents of Flint, however, begged to differ. The MDEQ notified the EPA in early April that the city of Flint did not implement corrosion control treatment at the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Despite the obvious dangers, health risks, and impending threats to any and all residents, officials of Flint continued to deny every piece of evidence, even going as far as to exclude lead level samples from city reports in order to cause their report results to fall within federally mandated levels. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University decided to perform their own examinations, and found lead levels to be at serious levels in hundreds of homes. Dr. Marc Edwards, one of the members of the Virginia Tech team, said to Michigan Radio, “The levels that we have seen in Flint are some of the worst that I have seen in more than 25 years working in the field.” Edwards also commented that “Flint is the only city in America that I’m aware of that does not have a corrosion control plan.” Brad Wurfel responded to Edwards’ comments on air on Michigan Radio, saying, “I don’t know how they’re getting the results they’re getting. … I know that it doesn’t match with any of the other surveillance in the area.” During September of 2015, lead levels were found to be unsettlingly high in children five and under, whereas the blood lead levels before the water source change were fine. The exposure of children is claimed as the passing of “Political Football”, shifting the blame and responsibility onto the states from the city itself. Finally, after all of the strain put on the Flint population, the city returned to the Detroit water source on October 16th of 2015. Days later, the director of the MDEQ, Dan Wyant gave an “explanation” as to why there was extremely poor corrosion control. He sums it up to misunderstanding, “What the staff did would have been the proper protocol for a community under 50,000 people. None of the MDEQ staff in this division had ever worked on a water source switch for a community over 50,000 people — it’s uncommon for big communities to switch sources.” “It’s increasingly clear there was confusion here, but it also is increasingly clear that MDEQ staff believed they were using the proper federal protocol here and they were not,” said Wyant. In December of 2015, the city’s mayor, Karen Weaver , declared a state of emergency, saying  “I am requesting that all things be done necessary to address this state of emergency declaration, effective immediately.” This declaration was verified by President Barack Obama in January of 2016, he said ” FEMA is authorized to provide equipment and resources to the people affected. Federal funding will help cover the cost of providing water, water filters and other items.”


In April of last year, Virginia Tech researchers reported, once again, that the Flint water was unsafe, and reported that residents were still opposed to using it in their homes. This examination lead to the criminal trials and indictments of three state officials, as they had not only displayed flagrant misconduct, but neglected safety precautions, and violated the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. In June, charges were leveled against two corporations, Veolia, a company  hired by the city as a water-quality consultant in 2015, as well as Andrews & Newnam, a company originally hired in 2011 to help operate the water treatment plant processing Flint River water.

The Flint Water Crisis is still very much real, and is continuing to affect residents of Flint. We may not all be directly affected, but there are ways to help. You can donate here, at http://www.helpforflint.com/ .