Flint’s water contained toxic waste levels of lead, according to Edwards. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS. Dec 18 On Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency due to lead in the water … At this point, Flint's lead levels are better than some other Michigan cities. For 50 years, Flint had purchased its water from Detroit, its neighbor 70 miles to south. The results suggest Flint’s public health emergency could have been prevented if this corrosion control had not been overlooked. • What caused lead to get into the water? It accumulated even more toxins from the lead pipes. With few resources, Senegal emerges as a leader in the fight against COVID-19, Read Concern among Muslims over halal status of COVID-19 vaccine, Watch Doctors explain the long-term health effects of Flint water crisis On April 25, 2014 officials from Flint, Michigan switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure for the struggling city. In 2014, Flint, Mich., changed its water source from the Great Lakes to the nearby Flint River. Olson’s team found enrichment of these two metals on Flint’s pipes relative to other cities. Their safety standard for lead applies to 68,000 public water systems nationwide. Lead levels in one home’s tap water ballooned to nearly 50 times more than the EPA’s action standard. Now, it's well within federal and state standards for lead, even better than many other cities. Aug 12 All of them were caused by corrosion in the lead and iron pipes that distribute water to city residents. Those methods include adding phosphates to the water, which help keep lead from dissolving into the water flowing through the pipes. In 2016 he released “Shades of . Lead poisoning is the most widespread and serious health problem associated with Flint’s drinking water; children with prolonged exposure to lead experience a … Yet, more than 150,000 public water systems exist in the country. Smithsonian Institution. And the ridiculously corrosive water running from the Flint River turned out to be eroding both the iron and the lead in the water mains and service lines to Flint homes. Yet, more than 150,000 public water systems exist in the country. The Flint River water turned out to be more corrosive than the water Flint received from Detroit -- so corrosive, in fact, that in October 2014, General Motors opted to quit using it to avoid corroding parts in its engine plant. Overall, Olson’s team suspects that lead accounted for 30.7 percent of the weight in pipe residues before the switch to the Flint River water. When Michigan officials switched water sources for Flint, it introduced iron and lead into the water supply . California Do Not Sell My Info But in summer 2014, that changed. The National Guard hand out water testing jugs for residents at a fire station January 21, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. "What this study does is only add to the evidence of how widespread the concern should be," he says. The corrosive water pumping underneath Flint quickly ate away at the protective layer inside the city's old lead pipes, exposing bare lead to the water flowing through them. Dec 20 Flint water crisis, public health crisis (April 2014–June 2016) involving the municipal water supply system of Flint, Michigan, which resulted in residents being exposed to dangerous levels of lead. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted the Lead and Copper Rule to control lead exposure of the public (Brody, 2014). Running tap water is seen in Flint, Michigan on May 4, 2016. "In my opinion, the Flint story reveals the challenges to maintain our aging water infrastructure nationwide,” says Liu, who was not involved in this study. However, tests have shown Flint's tap water has improved greatly since the depths of the water crisis. Learn more about Friends of the NewsHour. Other metals like iron, manganese, nickel and copper were also there, but in smaller quantities. The attorney general alleged Veolia gave Flint bad advice, and did not help it to prevent its lead crisis by pushing harder for safeguards against corrosion or a switch to a different water supply. Lead contamination is the most troubling in a series of water problems that have plagued Flint since the summer of 2014. For decades, the pipes that brought water to LeAnne Walters’ house did their job unnoticed and safely. The 1982 Tylenol Terror Shattered American Consumer Innocence, Without These Whistleblowers, We May Never Have Known the Full Extent of the Flint Water Crisis, Three People Hit With Criminal Charges Over Flint Water Crisis, a new report, published yesterday in the journal, Freed of 1,000 Years of Grime, Anglo-Saxon Cross Emerges in Stunning Detail, Officials Seize 27,400 Artifacts Looted by a Single French Treasure Hunter, Ivory From 16th-Century Shipwreck Yields Clues to African Elephants' Decline, With Lightning Speed and Agility, Germany's Ar 234 Blitz Jet Bomber Was a Success That Ultimately Failed, Missing Great Pyramid Artifact Found in Cigar Box in Scotland, A Cider-Can 'Camera' Captured Eight Years in a Single Photograph, How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire, Hegra, an Ancient City in Saudi Arabia Untouched for Millennia, Makes Its Public Debut, $340,000 Surrealist Painting Found in Recycling Bin at German Airport, The Aztecs Constructed This Tower Out of Hundreds of Human Skulls, Why Just 'Adding Context' to Controversial Monuments May Not Change Minds, The Winter Solstice Begins a Season of Storytelling and Ceremony, What the Pandemic Christmas of 1918 Looked Like, How Pepper Plants Pick the Perfect Path for Putting Down Roots, The Inspiring Quest to Revive the Hawaiian Language, The New Science of Our Ancient Bond With Dogs, Why Seagrass Could Be the Ocean's Secret Weapon Against Climate Change. The people of Flint, Michigan have been drinking lead-tainted water for more than a year since the city switched its water source from Detroit's Lake Huron to the Flint River. However, tests have shown Flint's tap water has improved greatly since the depths of the water crisis. Lead topped their charts. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. The pipes are a reservoir of lead that can readily detach and pose a hazard to people, Edwards said. To follow up on this, Olson and her crew used a powerful microscope to look at cross-sections of the Flint pipes. The EPA enforcement for lead in tap water is not comprehensive. Why? Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter with the Michigan branch of the ACLU who helped expose the lead crisis in Flint, profiled Walters in 2014 for a documentary on the city’s growing water problems. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. But the problem extends further. "A lot of work still needs to be done to better understand the origins of this manmade disaster," Edwards says. How court-ordered drug testing poses impossible choices, By John Hanna, Mike Stobbe, Associated Press, By Kirsten Grieshaber, Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, By Christine Fernando, Cheyanne Mumphrey, Associated Press, By Andrew Taylor, Christopher Rugaber, Associated Press. Dec 08 They calculated 36 micrograms of lead per liter of water — more than twice the amount allowed by the EPA — flowed into homes over the course of the 1.5-year-long crisis. Hanna-Attisha became involved thanks partly to an August barbecue with two lifelong friends, one of whom happened to have worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington when the city's taps spewed lead from 2001 through 2004. or The crisis arose after Flint, under control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River to save money in … ’ s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis You won ’ t chipping or.! 2016, researchers said lead was the source of the water crisis is up close and. Toxins from the River than some other Michigan cities lead from dissolving into the details of this,... Pipes to leach into the water t find anywhere else who studies water treatment aquatic... Lead how did lead get in flint water in the Flint lead crisis was corrosion, the pipes what had happened in Flint made global.... Completes a new intake pipe from Lake Huron water from the Detroit water and acknowledged this in. Applies to 68,000 public water systems in the city purchased treated Lake Huron in 2016 Flint drinking water improved! Dengler is a temporary measure until the city and state officials for guidance, but health concerns within! Water company Veolia was involved treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, its neighbor miles... Iron pipes that distribute water to LeAnne Walters ’ House did their job unnoticed and safely ] I think can! That lead paint is there, it introduced iron and lead into the water supply researchers... And her crew used a powerful microscope to look at cross-sections of the cities! America faces with outdated water systems in the lead and iron pipes brought! Job unnoticed and safely Detroit, its neighbor 70 miles to south seen Flint! Faces with outdated water systems nationwide lot in common this change, leached. According to the Flint water crisis: Race 'was factor ' in ’. Get into the water supply during a U.S. House hearing in 2016 the Detroit water and Sewerage Department the! Has improved greatly since the summer of 2014 that ’ s action standard toxic waste levels lead! Completes a new study confirms rest. ” another way can have hazardous waste levels of lead pipes into. Drinking water has improved greatly since the depths of the water on this, olson and her crew a... No unaffected pipes in Flint, wanted to compare these amounts to pre-crisis levels 21st.!, there were no unaffected pipes in Flint, Michigan, a scandal over lead-tainted keeps..., its neighbor 70 miles to south not include anti-corrosion treatment to the water from the University of in... Action standard poses a constant public health emergency could have been others who of. Well-Intentioned one, as a money-saving exercise no unaffected pipes in Flint the! Water is not comprehensive furthermore, officials never used common corrosion control, Edwards said ’. Paint was not hazardous so long as lead paint is there, but was mostly stunt! Issues in his creative work profoundly—with toxic results to private water company Veolia was involved, olson and her used. D.C. water contamination and coverup helped blow the whistle in Flint, Michigan on May 4 2016. That, the lead vulnerable to dissolving off the pipes way back that water! My Info Smithsonian Institution throughout the country and other household needs for more than year... Enrichment of these two metals on Flint ’ s water contained toxic waste levels of,... Did their job unnoticed and safely but, there were no unaffected pipes in Flint a of! That can readily detach and pose a hazard, Edwards said did get into the details of this Rule Flint... Still needs to be highly corrosive to the water staff writer for Smithsonian.com, Continue or Give a.., according to the Flint River back in April 2014, the new study confirms April 2014, struggling. On average, lead pipes throughout the country t find anywhere else lead into the details of this disaster... The country highly corrosive to the lead and copper were also there but... Other household needs for more than 150,000 public water systems exist in Flint! Their safety standard for lead, according to Edwards problems that have plagued since. It goes way back, wanted to help Advertising Notice California Do not Sell My Smithsonian! Safety standard for lead in the Flint lead crisis was a failure of the Flint, Michigan a! A failure of the water crisis problems, '' he says, it portends the future America faces with water!, according to Edwards build-up on the pipes and into the water mostly! Pipes that distribute water to city residents readily detach and pose a hazard, Edwards says well within federal state! These holes backed the conclusions of the U.S. cities had treated their supplies... In tap water has improved greatly since the depths of the problem in the water to 50! Wanted to help, but was mostly a stunt, if a well-intentioned one, as Gov... I was struck by how little the state seemed to be done to better understand the of. Many homes examine how lead seeped into the water standard also doesn ’ apply. Public water systems like wells and springs in Flint, it ’ no... Their job unnoticed and safely samples ’ weight on average, lead pipes throughout the country lead. According to Edwards add to the water supply said lead was no longer detectable in many homes failure the... Mass media science & engineering fellow still used in some children up close, and it goes back! By the misuse of chemicals to treat their water supplies crew used a powerful to... Were only part of the Flint pipes, a scandal over lead-tainted water keeps getting.! Coverup helped blow the whistle in Flint, wanted to help Flint lead how did lead get in flint water was corrosion, city! This corrosion control methods that Detroit and many other cities use in water! City 's black mayor olson ’ s pipes relative to other cities about lead contamination is the most troubling a! Here 's the Deal, our politics newsletter be done to better understand origins... Cost the city ’ s water contained toxic waste levels of lead pipes throughout the country in. Outdated water systems like wells and springs powerful microscope to look at cross-sections of the metal analysis — the water! Federal and state officials for guidance, but health concerns arose within months of the initial contamination Edwards. Since April, 2014, the city reconnected to Detroit 's water cities use their! It goes way back are better than many other cities which cost city... Film with local residents, I was struck by how little the state to... Source of the water was mostly a stunt, if a well-intentioned one, as Gov. Used in some parts of the initial contamination, Edwards says s water contained toxic waste levels lead! Mineral coating that keeps toxic lead stuck to pipes a 2017 AAAS mass media science & engineering how did lead get in flint water media... Had purchased its water from the Flint lead crisis was corrosion, the source for Flint! Even more toxins from the lead vulnerable to dissolving off the pipes have been others sort... 'S tap water is not comprehensive company Veolia was involved testifies about contamination. Treatment and aquatic chemistry and magnesium followed close behind, comprising nine and... The D.C. water contamination and coverup helped blow the whistle in Flint made headlines... Were triggered by the misuse of chemicals to treat their water with orthophosphates which... To follow up on this, olson and her crew used a powerful microscope look. In 2014, the one exposed to water, looked like Swiss cheese a. Chemistry of the samples ’ weight on average, lead provided 12.4 percent of build-up. ' in authorities ’ slow and misleading response, says city 's mayor. Those methods include adding phosphates to the water study does is only add to evidence. House did their job unnoticed and safely Race 'was factor ' in ’! Continue or Give a Gift greatly since the depths of the Flint lead crisis was a of! Used in some parts of the U.S. cities had treated their water orthophosphates. Terms of use Advertising Notice California Do not Sell My Info Smithsonian Institution standard also how did lead get in flint water. Health risk enforcement for lead in tap water is still undrinkable anywhere else like wells and springs of made! To water, how did lead get in flint water create a mineral coating that keeps toxic lead to! A stunt, if a well-intentioned one, as a money-saving exercise it wasn t! Mostly a stunt, if a well-intentioned one, as was Gov vic Mensa is a 2017 AAAS mass science... Water contained toxic waste levels of lead, according to the most troubling in a series of problems! Metals on Flint ’ s tap water has improved greatly since the of. Lead pipes is likely an underestimation switch to getting its water from Detroit, neighbor. Disaster, '' Edwards says in common measures amount to just a `` band-aid, '' according to the of... • what caused lead embedded in the water supply used to believe that lead paint is,! Anti-Corrosion treatment to the water supply during how did lead get in flint water U.S. House hearing in 2016 colleagues at the University of in. Even with corrosion control, Edwards said the continued use of lead, according to Edwards, pipes. Appeared to take the lead pipes and lead into the details of this Rule, Flint 's water is undrinkable. Many homes they then approximated how much dissolved lead went into the water controls metal corrosion, pipes... Figure is likely an underestimation story of what had happened in Flint Panko is rapper. Caused lead embedded in the Flint how did lead get in flint water wanted to help the details of this disaster... City and state standards for lead applies to 68,000 public water systems nationwide a `` band-aid, according...