Flint Forever Changed the Way America Thinks About Drinking Water

Replacing Flint’s Lead Pipes Expected to Be Complete by 2020

WASHINGTON - Five years ago on April 25, 2014, officials looking to save money switched Flint, Michigan’s drinking water supply, and then failed to treat the highly corrosive water properly, unleashing massive lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. The entire city of more than 100,000, including 9,000 children, was exposed to lead, a neurotoxin dangerous in any amount. The water crisis provided the nation and the world a glimpse into the frailty of aging water infrastructure in Flint and beyond.

“Flint forever changed the way America thinks about drinking water,” said Erik D. Olson, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “There is a shared expectation that your tap water should be safe, but the experience of Flint residents unmasked the drinking water infrastructure crisis looming in many communities across the nation,” said Olson.

Flint’s hazardous lead pipes are in the process of being replaced, under a court order in a lawsuit brought by the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the ACLU of Michigan and NRDC in 2016. The lawsuit was filed to help address the lead contamination crisis and secure safe drinking water for the Flint community, including prompt replacement of all lead water pipes at no cost to Flint residents. In March of 2017, the groups entered into a settlement with the City of Flint and State of Michigan, which led to the ongoing removal of Flint’s lead service lines, work that is expected to be completed by 2020.

"The settlement does not provide all the justice Flint residents deserve. But it has been an important step towards making the city's tap water safer," said Dimple Chaudhary, senior attorney at NRDC and lead counsel for the case. See below for an update of the progress made replacing Flint’s lead pipes (note figures rely on City of Flint data from March 2019):

  • Total homes with active water accounts: 28,500
  • Total excavations as of 3/31/2019: 21,093
  • Total replacements as of 3/31/2019: 8,029
  • Total excavations in 2019, through 3/7/2019: 1,239
  • Total pipe replacements in 2019, through 3/7/2019: 263

For more information about the amended settlement to improve the way the City of Flint finds and replaces lead pipes still in the ground, see this factsheet: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/flint-settlement-agreement-safe-water-lawsuit-amended-improve-lead-pipe-removal-fs.pdf


Fighting for Safe Water in Flint (video)
NRDC: Flint Water Crisis (website)
Michigan’s Lead in Drinking Water Protections Under Attack


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Related Issues
Drinking Water

Related Press Releases