How Flint’s water contamination crisis developed

Detroit News staff

Flint’s contaminated water problems trace back to when the Genesee County city and others decided to look at switching from the Detroit water system, which draws its drinking water from Lake Huron. The Flint River became a temporary drinking water source while the Karegnondi Regional Authority built a water system connected to Lake Huron that is scheduled to be completed later this year. Here is how the crisis evolved:

June 2007: Oakland County Drain Commissioner John McCullough and Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright start the process to create a water authority to evaluate regional water supply alternatives to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The Karegnondi Regional Water Planning Group is named after the Native American name for Lake Huron.

October 2010: The city of Flint as well as Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac counties create the Karegnondi Regional Water Authority to “distribute raw water” to the Interstate 69 corridor, according to the authority’s website.

Nov. 8, 2011: Gov. Rick Snyder decides a “local government financial emergency exists” in Flint. The city ran deficits for at least three straight years, failed to deliver on its budget-cutting promises to the state and let its pension system fall below 60 percent funding.

Dec. 1, 2011: Michael Brown, a Snyder appointee, becomes Flint’s first emergency manager.

Aug. 8, 2012: Snyder-dominated board appoints Ed Kurtz to replace Brown because a voter referendum effort to overturn a new emergency manager law made Brown ineligible to continue. Kurtz was emergency financial manager of the city under a weaker state law from 2002-04, during which he cut jobs and slashed salaries of elected officials to deal with deficits.

March 25, 2013: Flint City Council votes 7-1 to join the new Karegnondi Water Authority.

April 16, 2013: Kurtz approves Flint’s move to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

April 17, 2013: Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Sue McCormick sends Flint a termination notice, signaling the provider’s intention to halt service in a year’s time.

April 19, 2013: State, Detroit water and Flint area officials meet in Detroit with Snyder to discuss Flint’s plan to leave the Detroit water system. Snyder urges Flint area officials to entertain one last offer from Detroit.

June and July 2013: Flint enters into a contract with consultants Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. to prep the city’s treatment plant for processing Karegnondi water and, possibly, river water.

July 8, 2013: Kurtz decides to retire, and Brown is able to become Flint’s emergency manager again under the new Public Act 436 emergency manager law.

October 2013: Snyder appoints Darnell Earley to replace Brown as emergency manager.

Feb. 12, 2014: Detroit water officials make an official offer to Flint to provide water during the Karegnondi construction period.

March 7, 2014: Earley rejects Detroit’s water rate offer, saying Flint has been pursuing the Flint River as its temporary source since receipt of the termination notice a year prior.

April 25, 2014: Flint begins drawing its water from the Flint River. Within weeks, residents are complaining about the color, smell and taste of the water.

August 2014: State water sampling shows high levels of total coliform bacteria, leading to boil water advisories. Eventually, Flint adds chlorine to its treatment.

Oct. 13, 2014: Due to worries about corrosion, General Motors Co. says it will cease using river water at its Flint Engine Operations plant.

December 2014: After six months of water testing, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality sees lead levels above what is allowed by law, but sounds no alarms.

Jan. 13, 2015: Gerald Ambrose becomes Flint’s fourth emergency manager.

February 2015: Water samples taken at the home of resident Lee-Anne Walters show lead levels roughly seven times higher than what is permitted by law. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official questions the state DEQ about how Flint’s water is being treated.

April 2015: In an email exchange, DEQ admits Flint is not using corrosion controls to prevent lead from leaching into the water. The admission prompts no immediate public notification from either agency.

June 24, 2015: EPA water expert Miguel Del Toral writes an in-house memo about the lack of corrosion controls and the potential for putting public health at risk. The public is not notified of the concerns.

July 1, 2015: EPA Region 5 Director Susan Hedman writes to Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, saying Del Toral’s memo should not have been released. She makes no call for immediate action.

Sept. 8, 2015: Testing conducted by Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards and his team shows dangerous levels of lead in Flint’s water. Two weeks later, Hurley Medical Center researcher Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha releases her own findings of high lead levels in Flint children.

Oct. 1, 2015: Genesee County officials declare a public health emergency.

Oct. 2, 2015: Gov. Rick Snyder reconsiders and pursues reconnecting Flint to the Detroit water system.

Oct. 16, 2015: Flint begins receiving water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department again.

Oct. 19, 2015: DEQ Director Dan Wyant admits his department misinterpreted the federal Lead and Copper Rule governing drinking water by failing to apply corrosion controls.

Dec. 14, 2015: Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declares a state of emergency for the city.

Dec. 29, 2015: Wyant and DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel resign. The next day, Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh replaces Wyant.

Jan. 5, 2016: Snyder declares a state of emergency in Genesee County over the water-contamination issues.

Jan 12, 2016: Snyder requests support in the Flint crisis from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Jan. 16, 2016: President Barack Obama declares a federal state of emergency in Flint.

Sources: Detroit News reporting