News Feature | October 21, 2015

Michigan Admits Fault In Flint Crisis

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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Michigan is stepping up to take some responsibility for water problems in Flint, where everything from lead to disinfectant byproducts has plagued the supply since the city switched from Detroit water and began drinking Flint River water.

“The State of Michigan has removed its top drinking water quality official and admitted it botched corrosion control in Flint water pipes, which resulted in elevated lead levels in the city's water system,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said, per the report: “Simply stated, staff employed a federal protocol they believed was appropriate, and it was not. The water testing steps followed would have been correct for a city of less than 50,000 people, but not for a city of nearly 100,000.”

Additional fallout, per the report:

Wyant announced that his top deputy, Jim Sygo, would step in as interim chief of the department's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, replacing Liane Shekter Smith, who has been reassigned while the state reviews the problems in Flint. Wyant said that Gov. Rick Snyder has called for a third-party review of the process.

The lead issue in Flint is linked to an “immediate and irreversible danger — possible lead poisoning of some of the city’s children,” the Detroit Free Press reported, citing an assessment of blood test results by a Hurley Children’s Hospital pediatrician.

“Some doctors urged Flint to stop using the Flint River for water after finding high levels of lead in the blood of children, an extraordinary health warning in an ongoing controversy over the city's water supply,” the Associated Press previously reported.

Flint has faced water challenges, including E. coli and high trihalomethane levels, since it stopped using Detroit's water supply last year and became responsible for its own treatment processes. Since the switch to Flint River water, "residents started complaining about skin rashes and their hair falling out, likely caused by the chlorine used to kill the e-coli," Michigan Radio reported.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Disinfection Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Taking Apart Detroit," Bob Jagendorf © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/