Flint, Michigan

The manufacturing of cars was an important trait of defining Flint, Michigan. In 1937, Workers occupied different aspects of the manufacturing process for 44 days while threatened by the National Guard troops and hired thugs (Rosner). The autoworkers strike in Flint emphasized the broader national discontent of labor workers, “It also was a signature strike by the growing ranks of industrial workers’ organizing drives,” (Rosner 200). The workers' strike mirrored most union strikes as they wanted to be paid better while working less hours, health benefits and better working conditions. While the workers won a labor victory, the impact of the various chemicals used in the manufacturing process on the environment were inescapable. Flint being focused on the financial prosperity of the city and its people in 1937 acted with little regard for the environment, “Huge amounts of lead and other toxins were pumped into the air, water, streams, and ground in and around the mammoth car factories,” (Rosner 201). The Flint River being one of those dumping areas.


In 2012, Flint was looking into options to upgrade their water source for cheaper rates. It was in 2013 that Emergency Manager Kutz manipulated the available upgrades options, “After removing all the cheaper options, KWA was determined to be the cheapest alternative available,” (Hammer 111). This plan would take a total of 30 months to implement. While the new Karegnondi Water Authority source line was being constructed, Flint would draw water from the Flint River. This is when the Flint residents were exposed to elevated lead levels. The increase of lead levels in the tap-water was due to the failure, a lack of money to manage and update Flint’s water treatment plant, that resulted in the lack of the EPA mandated corrosion-control treatments. This resulted in corrosive water interacting with the aged lead service pipes causing the elevated lead levels in Flint as drinking water with elevated lead levels is rarely from the water source (Bellinger). The immediate importance placed on the high levels of lead emphasizes the difference in the understanding of lead’s negative impacts on the human body from 1937 to 2014. Lead was used in many aspects of car manufacturing such as being a gas additive or being used in the paint (Rosner). Further, lead’s negative impacts on the human body are underscored by the increased negative impact it has on children, “It is now established that there is no safe level of lead, particularly for children,” (Bellinger 1101). This risk prompted a need for immediate action. However, immediate action did not happen as many drank the lead infused water.


The Flint water crisis showed the racial and economic disparity of those who were affected with lead elevated tap-water, “The burden of childhood lead poisoning has always weighed most heavily on populations that are politically and economically disenfranchised,” (Bellinger 1102). Flint is a post-industrial city that has lost more than half of its 1960’s peak population of 200,000 (Hammer). The overall white population of Flint decreased, and the black population increased. However, the population of Genesee County, which Flint is in, has remained the same (Hammer). The migration of the population highlights the segregation of race and wealth, “the City of Flint and Genesee County have taken on increasingly different socioeconomic characteristics over time,” (Hammer 107). The Flint water crisis becomes a central focal point in the study of environmental racism because those affected are mostly people of color.



Bellinger, David C. “Lead Contamination in Flint — an Abject Failure to Protect Public Health.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 374, no. 12, 2016, pp. 1101–1103., https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmp1601013.

Hammer, Peter J. “The Flint Water Crisis, the Karegnondi Water Authority and Strategic–Structural Racism.” Critical Sociology, vol. 45, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 103–119, https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920517729193.

Rosner, David. “Flint, Michigan: A Century of Environmental Injustice.” American journal of public health vol. 106,2 (2016): 200-1. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.303011.


Cook, Rebecca. “Obama to Meet with Flint, Michigan Residents on Water Crisis.” Reuters, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/obama-to-meet-with-flint-michigan-r.... Accessed 2021.



Latitude: 43.012527400000
Longitude: -83.687456200000

Timeline of Events Associated with Flint, Michigan

Date Event Manage
16 Dec 2016 to 16 Dec 2016

President Obama Signed the WIIN Act into Law

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation, or WIIN, Act was signed by President Obama on December 16, 2016. In the Act’s introduction, it states that its purpose is: “To provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, and for other purposes,” (S.612, pg. 2). It is under Subtitles A & B of Title II, Water and Waste Act of 2016, of the WIIN Act that it addressed the issue of the increasing lead concentration in drinking water due to an aging infrastructure. The WIIN act provides federal grants to states to address elevated lead levels in the water in disadvantaged communities.


Specifically, the WIIN act gave financial relief to the city of Flint, MI. As of when the Act was signed, Flint had already suffered two years of elevated lead levels in their tap-water. In President Obama’s press release of the WIIN acts signing, he states, “The law also authorizes $170 million for communities facing drinking water emergencies, including funding for Flint, Michigan, to recover from the lead contamination in its drinking water system,” (United States). The longer the water crisis of disadvantaged communities go unfulfilled; the more they fuel the narrative immortalizing the idea of unsafe drinking water became, “Our findings demonstrate persistent racial/ethnic disparities in the tap water consumption gap, and that Hispanic and Black households’ probability of not drinking tap water has further increased in recent years,” (Rosinger et al. 3). The groups of people adversely effected were typically poor people of color. This is shown in the percentage of decreasing tap water usage by Blacks and Latina’s increasing 50% by 2018 (Rosinger et al.). President Obama’s signing the WIIN Act into law represents the intersection of Race and Class as the WIIN act tries to address the issues that adversely affect poor people and people of color.


S.612 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): WIIN Act." Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 16 December 2016, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/612/text/pl

Rosinger, Asher Y, et al. “Examining Recent Trends in the Racial Disparity Gap in Tap Water Consumption: NHANES 2011–2018.” Public Health Nutrition, 2021, pp. 1–7., https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980021002603.

United States, Office of the Press Secretary. “Statement by the President on the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.” The White House, 16 Dec. 2106, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/16/statement-president-water-infrastructure-improvements-nation-wiin-act


Wilson, Mark. “President Obama Signs The Budget Bill In The Oval Office Of White House.” Getty Images, 2015, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/president-barack-obama-sig.... Accessed 2021.