Flint Water Crisis Health Effects Persist 10 Years Later Despite Pipe Replacement Efforts

10 years after Flint's lead water crisis, residents still suffer health effects as pipe replacement drags on, highlighting systemic racism and the ongoing fight for justice.

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Flint Water Crisis Health Effects Persist 10 Years Later Despite Pipe Replacement Efforts

Flint Water Crisis Health Effects Persist 10 Years Later Despite Pipe Replacement Efforts

Ten years after the Flint, Michigan lead water crisis began, residents continue to confront the lasting health effects, even as efforts to replace the city's contaminated pipes have made slow progress. In 2014, the city switched its water source to the Flint River, exposing over 100,000 residents, including 12,000 children, to elevated levels of lead and bacteria.

Studies showed that the percentage of children with elevated lead levels doubled or tripled in some parts of the city following the water source change. Despite an outcry from the predominantly African American community, the government response was slow, taking nearly two years for then-President Obama to declare a state of emergency.

A decade later, the impact of the crisis persists. Kids are still sick, the city has not finished replacing lead pipes, and families are still awaiting justice. Residents like Brittany Thomas and her family developed rashes and experienced frequent seizures, while others like Eileen Hayes and Melissa Mays continue to buy bottled water and deal with the long-term health impacts.

Why this matters: The Flint water crisis has become emblematic of how poorer communities of color can fall victim to government mismanagement and systemic racism. The unfinished pipe replacement program and lack of compensation for residents highlight the ongoing struggle for justice and accountability.

While the city has replaced nearly 30,000 water service lines, about 1,900 others have not been reviewed, and activists accuse the city of dragging its feet. The crisis has also been linked to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that led to a dozen deaths. Despite the attention the crisis brought to lead-contaminated tap water and environmental justice issues, the work of installing new service lines in Flint has not been completed.

A $626 million settlement was reached with the state in 2020, but residents have yet to receive any compensation. The city has also been held in contempt of court for failing to comply with a settlement agreement that mandated the completion of lead service line replacements by September 2022.

Activists argue that a decade should be more than enough time to fix the problem and that the city needs to make a greater effort to contact residents and complete the necessary work. "This 10 years is a reminder of the path that we have been on and the fact that we still have not arrived," said Nayyirah Shariff, director of the grassroots group Flint Rising. As Flint marks the somber anniversary, residents continue to demand justice and accountability for a crisis that has left a lasting mark on their community.

Key Takeaways

  • Flint's lead water crisis began 10 years ago, exposing 100,000+ residents to lead.
  • Lead levels in children doubled or tripled, but government response was slow.
  • Residents still face health issues, and pipe replacement program is unfinished.
  • A $626M settlement was reached, but residents have yet to receive compensation.
  • Activists argue 10 years is too long to fix the problem, demanding more accountability.