Failure of Government (03:07)
A $274 million pipeline was built to bring fresh water from Lake Huron to businesses and homes throughout Eastern Michigan. It led to an unprecedented public health crisis in the city of Flint as citizens were exposed to bacteria- and lead-tainted water.
Start of Epidemic (04:45)
Legionnaires’ disease—a potentially deadly form of pneumonia—started making Flint residents sick in 2014, before the city’s water crisis made headlines. The outbreak got little attention, despite being one of the biggest in United States history. Jacqueline McBride’s daughter was a victim.
"Do Not Drink the Water" (05:18)
Switching Flint’s water source to the Flint River meant using an old water treatment plant that had not been operational for years. Corroded pipes were a breeding ground for bacteria, and there were 30 Legionnaire’s disease cases by fall 2014.
Negligent Response (05:43)
State officials suspected the cause of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak and worried that word would get out. Flint’s water was never tested. County officials drafted an alert to medical providers that was never sent. Gov. Rick Snyder claimed he did not know about the problem until 2016.
Who Knew What and When? (04:56)
State officials finally had to respond to the Legionnaires’ crisis after high lead levels made headlines in 2015. Snyder announced the outbreak without citing the city’s water as its cause. Special Counsel Todd Flood started a criminal investigation. Scientists also investigated.
Clashing with State Officials (05:21)
Wayne State University’s Shawn McElmurry put together a team of experts from around the state, but state officials set up roadblocks to their investigation. Flood charged nine officials with crimes related to the outbreak.
Water Results Worse Than Expected (03:34)
With the scientists and state at odds, “Frontline” conducted its own investigation. Reporter Jacob Carah searched electronic death records looking for pneumonia as a cause. McElmurry’s team announced that legionella had been found in local water filters, leading to pushback from the governor’s office.
Cover-up Exposed in Court (04:14)
State officials Nick Lyon and Eden Wells faced the possibility of involuntary manslaughter charges in 2017. They stood accused of neglecting to inform the public of the Legionnaires’ threat and interfering with McElmurry’s investigation. The state blamed Flint’s McLaren Hospital for the outbreak.
Legal Process (03:53)
Jassmine McBride still suffered from the aftereffects of Legionnaires’ disease, four years after contracting it. Judges ruled that there was enough evidence to try Lyon and Wells. The election of a new attorney general left the future of the investigation uncertain.
More Deaths Than Reported (05:36)
Carah was able to document 115 pneumonia deaths that took place during Flint’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. Marcus Wilson, a resident of the Mott Park neighborhood, died but was never tested for the disease. Epidemiologists at Emory University analyzed data provided by “Frontline.”
No Accountability (05:28)
Jassmine McBride died on Feb. 12, 2019. She was one of many Flint residents to survive the initial outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease only to succumb later. Flood was ousted, and a new special counsel dropped charges against Lyon and Wells.
Credits: Flint's Deadly Water (01:01)
Credits: Flint's Deadly Water
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