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Flint Michigan: Lessons from a Critical Water Crisis

April 22, 2016

As facts surrounding the Flint, Michigan water crisis continue to emerge, Americans struggle to understand how this egregious violation of public safety, which left nearly 100,000 people drinking lead-contaminated water for a year and a half, was allowed to occur.  The question of how to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future is being asked by those in the public and within the engineering profession. 

Cost played an important role in the development of this situation, both in the decision to save money by switching water sources from the Detroit water system to the Flint River and in a lack of funds available to remove lead service lines from Flint homes. 

American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance issued a statement on January 19th in response to President Obama’s declaration of a federal emergency in Flint. He identified not only the immediate importance of providing Flint residents with safe drinking water but also that, among other lessons, the affordability of our nation’s water systems will be a great challenge in the coming years. He points to AWWA’s 2012 report “Buried No Longer,” which estimated that $1 trillion dollars will be needed in the next 25 years to adequately repair and expand water infrastructure in the U.S., a cost which will primarily be on the shoulders of water customers. 

A link to the statement with further lessons learned and a link to the 2012 report can be found below: 

Statement from AWWA CEO David LaFrance Concerning Flint Water Quality Crisis

Buried No Longer: Confronting America's Water Infrastructure Challenge Report

Megan Sawyer, EIT, CFM 

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