In 2013, officials in Michigan decided to switch the source of Flint's drinking water to the Flint River rather than Detroit City water. The move was apparently intended to be a temporary fix while they waited on the Karegnondi Water Authority's system, which would provide water from Lake Huron.
Residents raised concerns about the new water source almost immediately and a boil order went into effect just a few months later after the water tested positive for coliform bacteria which typically indicated that pathogens are present in the water.
Though officials in the city insisted the water was safe after a few months, doctors from the Hurley Medical Center found high levels of lead in the blood of children in Flint using comparative blood tests from before and after the water source switch. The percentage of children with high lead levels in their blood doubled, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who conducted the tests, told NPR.
Researchers from Virginia Tech found that the water from the Flint River likely corroded the lead in the pipes, which experts believe poisoned the residents for 18 months between 2014 and 2015.
The contaminated water has also been blamed for an increase in a severe type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease thanks to the low levels of chlorine.
According to PBS in 2018, while the official record says that 90 people were made sick and 12 were killed, an investigation shows that as many as 119 deaths that year from pneumonia may have been caused by legionella bacteria in the water.
In addition, a study found that fetal death rates rose and fertility rates dropped following the water-source switch.
Today, the water has been reported to be at acceptable levels of water quality, but many have expressed doubt over its safety.