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The water crisis that rocked Flint, Michigan, several years ago turned a once mighty industrial city — the cradle of General Motors — into a tragedy, a city that other cities didn’t want to emulate. And while the crisis impacted the entire city, many of the affected neighborhoods were predominantly Black and low-income (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city is 54.1% Black, and 38.8% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line).
The Flint water crisis initially unfolded in 2014, when the city shifted its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. But the new source of water was highly corrosive and caused lead from old pipes throughout the system to leach into the water supply. By 2015, this had led to a significant increase in lead exposure in Flint’s drinking water — up to 40% of the city experienced elevated lead levels. Residents were forced to resort to bottled water throughout the crisis. At least nine people died of Legionnaires’ disease, a waterborne form of pneumonia.
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