· (1) Abstract = What is this case study about? State the question the case is answering and the how the particular scandal or person you chose provides an answer. Include your methodology (e.g., Marketing, Finance, Investor Relations). This is the last thing you write.
Flint, Michigan was once known as one of the largest car manufacturing cities across the country. Far from its prime days of fueling transportation and industry, Flint now finds itself in a state of emergency as economic and political agendas continue to trump over the safety and health of its residents. But how did this state of emergency come to be after the city’s water had been safe for so many years? After all, Flint was once seen as a necessity for major companies like General Motors after World War II. About half a century later, however, the city has basically been left fighting contamination. What could have possibly lead to the water supply coming from Lake Flint rather than the cleany supply abundantly found in nearby Detroit?
To answer these questions, this case will examine what economic changes leading up to 2014 and how this year would impact the lives of over 100,000 residents for the foreseeable future. It will show the major events that attributed to the city’s overall debt of over $25 billion and the $9 billion debt accumulated by the city’s water services alone. The case also goes on to show what impact and decisions were made by the government as a result of this debt and the need to cut costs. Ultimately, we can see that the decision to cut costs was clearly prioritized over the need to supply a struggling city with clean water. But these decisions have clearly backfired as measurable data continues to show the fatal costs of the city’s decision makers.
2). As of 2017, Flint, Michigan was statistically the poorest city in the country among neighborhoods with at least 65,000 permanent residents. The 2016 US Census estimated that 42% of residents in Flint live below the poverty line, over three times the US’s national average of 13%. For this reason, financial issues have always been some of the most important and pressing issues discussed amount residents and politicians alike. Any regulation or ruling that is decided upon in Flint must be thought out and discussed from a financial standpoint, as any decision made in the city could have major financial ramifications for the residents of Flint. The financial distressed found throughout the city has obviously been the root cause of many issues over the years, including the recent and ongoing water contamination crisis.
Flint had been relying on the Detroit Water Department for its water for over 50 years. The Detroit Water Department had a high quality water system, receiving its water directly from Lake Huron, but the water was expensive for the Flint residents. Water from Lake Huron was among the most expensive in the country, and in a city with poverty rates above 40%, it was becoming a huge issue for the residents. Complaints above the price of the water started to become very popular and eventually a movement was started among politicians for Flint to build their own water system. The city was then appointed an emergency manager, Ed Kurtz, to head the operation. In April of 2013, it was announced that Flint would build its own pipeline to connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority and get its water from the Flint River. It was expected to save the city’s residents over $200 million over the next 25 years. Ed Kurtz has since admitted that the decision to switch from Lake Huron was strictly financial and included no provisions to ensure safe drinking water from the Flint River. The city would upgrade and rebuild its old water treatment plant, which had sat idle for the past 50 years, and use this as the cheapest option for getting its residents water.
Flint contracted with the Karegnondi Water Authority and agreed to purchase 18 million gallons of water per day for Flint residents. However, construction for the supply of water from the KWA would take several years, so Flint turned to the Flint River as its emergency water system during the transitional period instead of continuing to pay the Detroit Water Authority for their service. Many thought this was a strange move, as the Flint River was known for being highly contaminated after suffering through years of sewage and chemical dumping. However, City officials assures its residents that the Flint Water Treatment would be sufficient enough in cleaning the water, and residents would be receiving high quality water during this transitional period.
· (3) Tell the Story = What is this case about? What is the story as your group sees it? This is probably best done in several subsections (e.g., Events. Players) the headings of which will depend on your particular case.
· (4) Review = Show how the pieces of data fit together to form your story. How did you arrive at your story? You are reviewing not just the data but your forensic/detective work.
The story of The Flint water crisis came to the limelight when a decision was made to switch the use of water from Flint River. This is because people had been complaining of how the water dirty, smelly and its taste was not pleasing. Additionally, after the switch, companies such as Flint’s General Motors Truck Assembly stopped using the water because it was causing corrosion in their motor engines as a result of high levels of chlorine. Many had been concerns about the safety of the water to human use if it could cause corrosion in metals. Due to this concerns raised by the people, I felt is necessary to do an investigation on what had been happening particularly the reason for the switch, the safety measures put in place before the switch, the goal and alternatives present in case the switch became messy, as well the protective measures to be taken if the water was not enough to supply to the people.
We took time to get first hand information for the residents of the areas, how life had changed after the switch, the arising effects especially health wise, and what the people responsible for the switch addressed the residents’ concerns. I also interviewed people from Flint General Motors Company on their experience using the water from the River. The report of the people were shocking and this motivated me to do a thorough investigation. I also took some water for analysis on the harmful components present in the water. The results confirmed with the concerns of the people. From the residents, I gathered that serious and life threatening issues had been reported such as the water causing rashes on the skin when people use it for bathing, hair loss, diarrhea, among other concerns. Test results from my investigation confirmed that there was presence of high levels of lead chlorine in the water. I gathered that a group of doctors had also recommended termination of the use of the water. Following the raised concerns and confirmation of the state of water in the River, follow-up was done to assess the response of the authorities involved and their actions such as the resignation of the Director in the Department of Environment, and the launch of claims in the courts due to the health problems caused. My interest in the whole story was to know how the effects of the decision to switch water will be addressed, particularly compensation for the residents of Flint. Additionally, my investigation aimed at discovering the cause of the water crisis in relation to Detroit Company and Flint. It revealed that there were internal wars between the two suppliers of water which dated back to long standing racism towards the Blacks in the Flint City. Additionally, there were actions of mismanagement and lack of doing proper analysis, effects of the switch and due diligence was lacking before the actions of switching water.
From the beginning of the story to the end, there are highly notable events which enables building up of the story. This begins from the sour relationship between Flint and Detroit, which then leads to the Detroit disconnecting the water supplies. This move causes Flint to look for alternative ways of getting water for the Residents but no due diligence is done before the move. There is no prior analysis if the condition of the water is done. These events which lead one story to another combine perfectly to make up the flow of the narrative. Combining the historical perspective, the internal conflicts, the decisions made and the arising consequences pieces the data together for a great story of analysis.
(5) Key Issues = What were moments of transition when events could have gone one way rather than another? Name them. Use them as subheads if appropriate. Which decisions were made, by whom? How do they affect your interpretation of events?
Public Recognition of an Issue:
After the April 2014 switch from using water from Lake Huron from the Detroit Water Department, which had been the standard practice for the Flint community for nearly 50 years, to drawing water from the Flint River for the town notable concerns and effects immediately became present. The impoverished town of Flint was struggling to pay bills for what was some of the most expensive water in the country, especially in a time they were on the brink of a financial crisis. There was a general sense of wanting to establish their own water system and gain some control of factors influencing the Flint community present during the switch. However, immediately after the switch concerns are raised about the quality of the water. As Pastor R Sherman McCathern noted, recalling kids playing in the spray of fire hydrants after the switch, “The water was coming out as dark as coffee for hours,” thinking “something is wrong here.” The residents of flint began largely reporting the water’s foul taste and coloring, as well as skin rashes and hair loss being hypothetically connected to showering in it. However, these concerns were met by a firm response from authorities that the water was safe to drink. If anything, they should leave the tap running for a few minutes to get a clean flow. Despite continued concerns about the water’s quality from sensory observations as well as independent tests concluding that a significant proportion of water samples consisted of lead levels drastically higher than the “action level” set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Despite these glaring causes for concern, state regulators maintained that the water was safe to drink, even being described by as “callour and dismissive” to the outcries of the Flint citizens. In January of 2015 Detroit even offers to reconnect Flint to it’s water system drawing from Lake Huron, but State regulators maintain their position that the water is safe to drink, keeping flint on river water which is clearly under filtered and adequately tested by the State purely to avoid paying the higher water utility rates.
Water Deemed Unfit for Car Engines But Fine for Humans:
One of the most striking moves made within the during the Flint Water Crisis was Flint’s General Motors Truck Assembly discontinuing their use of the Flint River water because it was causing corrosion within their engine parts due to elevated levels of chlorine in October 2014 just before State officials decline Detroit’s offer to reconnect their water systems to Lake Huron on January 12th. At a GM union, members had begun to stir and raise the question “If it’s too corrosive for an engine, what’s it doing to the inside of a person.” This is closely followed by Flint’s City Council voting in favor to reconnect the town with Detroit’s water system, only to be overruled by “Emergency Manager” Jerry Ambrose. He argued that switching back to Detroit’s water system would far too costly and that new procedures could be put into place to fix the plant. These two events signify a stubbornness to recognize a poor decision to switch water systems without ample preparation or recognition of the complexities which filtering river water rather than lake water bring into the equation. Instead of recognizing the facts of the impurity of the water and the effects it was having on their constituents who were consuming it they maintained the path of denying that anything was wrong with the water, with the Mayor of Flint Dayne Walling going so far as to drink tap water live on local television on June 9th. This was just one week after Miguel Del Toral report of Dr. Marc Edwards and four other Virginia Tech scientists findings that four out of the houses they survived in Flint had dangerously high lead levels in their water. Mayor Walling’s stunt of drinking the tap water on live TV is one of a pattern of responses in which officials respond to research backed public concerns with non-factual blind denial as a result of their determination to refuse to admit that anything was wrong with the decision to switch Flint River water.
Government Officials Fold in the Face of Facts
Eventually in September of 2015 government officials begin to back down from their firms stance that absolutely nothing was wrong with the Flint drinking water when confronted with a report from Virginia Tech’s water study team as they publish that over 40 percent water supplies in Flint homes are contaminated with significantly elevated levels of lead. As Flint’s water quality is finally brought into the national spotlight, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality who initially stated “Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax,” admits that Flint needs to upgrade it infrastructure without outright stating that the water was contaminated. However, that small admission of guilt that something was wrong followed by recommendations from Virginia Tech that the State of Michigan declare the water of flint unfit to drink as well as Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha study of the highest number of children with high lead-blood levels was all that was required to finally topple the charade that nothing was wrong. Following those two acts on September 11th, 2015 and September 24th, on October 15 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signs 9.35 million dollar bill, calling for relief for the citizens of Flint as well as for the water systems of the town to be reconnected to Detroit’s. This is then followed by newly minted Flint Mayor Kevin Weaver declaration of a state of emergency on December 15th and MDEQ director Dan Wyant’s resignation. The reluctance to concede that the water was in fact contaminated with lead concentration at continuously dangerous levels for over a year and a half has left the community damaged beyond a financial value, Over two years, outbreak of Legionnaires disease due to lead poisoning, to which there is no known cure, “affected 90 people and killed 12.” The water contamination also reportedly led to a significant drop in fertility of women in Flint, and 58% in foetal deaths.
(6) Hunter Recommendation(s) = What are the lessons learned? What could have been done to prevent the scandal or problem? Why is this case important, and what does it mean for the reader quod fit…?
· Note: Proposing realistic, workable solutions is better than casual suggestions. Be prepared to argue why your recommendations are more attractive than other possibilities, especially in your presentation.
In Spring of 2014, when faced with looming water utility rates, the town of Flint was right to attempt to take control of one element of their lives in the production of their useable water supply. However, they should have taken a much more calculate approach in determining whether the Flint River was suitable to be filtered and treated into a consumable and safe water supply. Instead of attempting to model their water treatment plant after those used within lake water resources, engineers should have taken it upon themselves to research and model the Flint River plant after other water supplies treated from running water sources. This would have helped them set expectations for the level of treatment they would need to implement based on water samples they should have taken from the river beforehand. Doing so would have allowed them to test treated water in several stages to determine the levels of dangerous contaminants before switching it on as the sole water resource for the city. Although this would have extended the timeline of the switch-over and increased the amount time residents would have had to pay heightened utility rates, it would have safeguarded their health, the most valuable resource they have.
The next step that could have been taken to mitigate the amount of damage done by the engineers having failed to prepare the plant adequately, and triage the situation would have been for government officials, both of the city and of the state, to listen to and investigate the concerns of their constituents. If they had taken these outcries seriously, instead of dismissing them assuming the issue either wasn’t credible or would simply go away, they could have spared citizens an immeasurable amount of physical suffering. The lesson to learn from this is that when installing and activating a new public utility which effects every citizen of a district there needs to be a greater amount of checks and balances put into place. Inspections of resources such as water, which is consumed and used multiple times on a daily basis is of the utmost importance to protecting the health of the public.
· (7) Conclusion = This is a summary and restatement of the abstract. It should include important observations about the case, your methodology, and/or areas for further research.
· (8) SHIV BHARDWAJTimeline = Include a simple timeline showing the major events of the story. The timeline ought to support you story.
· Note: Three pieces of a case study are (1) Narrative or story that is compelling, (2) Timeline showing the major events and players, (3) A metaphor to engage readers’imagination and help you tell the story. Volkswagon had two: mettle and Faust.
April 2014: To save money Flint begins drawing water from the Flint River its residents, rather than depending on Detroit. It was supposed to be a temporary move while the city. There were immediate complaints about the smell, taste and appearance of the water, and raise health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems.
January 2015: Detroit offers to reconnect Flint to its water system, but Flint leaders insist the water is safe.
Sept. 24, 2015: State regulators insist the water is safe when a group of doctors report Flint should stop consuming water from the Flint River.
Sept. 29, 2015: The government acknowledges issues with elevated lead levels for the first time as Gov. Rick Snyder pledges to take action.
Jan. 5, 2016: A state of emergency is declared in flint and the distribution of water bottles and filters begins.
Jan. 13, 2016: Michigan health officials report an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases over a 2 year period in the county that includes Flint. Some cases are fatal.
Jan. 14, 2016: Snyder asks the Obama administration for major disaster declaration and increased federal aid. The White House provides federal aid and an emergency declaration on Jan. 16, rather than the disaster declaration.
Jan. 15, 2016: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette begins an “independent review” into the Flint crisis.
March 23, 2016: A governor-appointed panel concludes that the state of Michigan is “fundamentally accountable” for the crisis because of decisions made by environmental regulators.
Aug. 14, 2016: A federal emergency declaration over Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis ends, but state officials say work continues to fix the drinking water system and provide services to city residents.
Dec. 10, 2016: Congress approves a bill that gives Flint $170 million to address the crisis.
Dec. 16, 2016: Congress finds both state officials and the EPA at fault in Flint’s crisis
Dec. 20, 2016: Former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose are charged with multiple felonies for their failure to protect the residents of Flint from health hazards caused by contaminated drinking water. Earley, Ambrose and two Flint city employees were also charged with felony counts of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses in the issuance of bonds to pay for a portion of the water project that led to the crisis.
March 28, 2017: Water lines at 18,000 homes in Flint will be replaced.
June 14, 2017: Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area. He and four others are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator.