Though widespread outcry has only recently erupted over the people of Flint, Michigan, being poisoned by lead in the city’s tap water, activists and local medical experts had been sounding the alarm about the issue well before it became a national headline. Lead poisoning leads to irreparable brain damage and may be linked to a recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease.
Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency earlier this month amid widespread demands for his resignation after it became apparent that the people of Flint have been drinking lead-contaminated water for two years.
Flint’s water crisis stretches back to April 2014, when Darnell Earley, the city’s state-appointed emergency manager, switched Flint’s water supply to the polluted and corrosive Flint River. In January 2015, the city warned 100,000 residents that their water may contain toxic levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, a byproduct of chlorination that has been linked to cancer, kidney and liver failure, and birth defects.
Residents had been getting sick for months prior to that warning, according to an April 2015 report from Laura Gottesdiener. Writing for Al-Jazeera America, Gottesdiener relayed the experiences of one Flint family: