22 Powerful Photos Show the Devastating Reality of Flint's Water Crisis

22 Powerful Photos Show the Devastating Reality of Flint's Water Crisis

FLINT, Mich.  The children are sick, the houses are empty and the water can kill you.

In 2013, the city of Flint, population 99,763, announced it would stop buying water from Detroit. The move was meant to cut costs: A new water authority was set to pull water from Lake Huron, and Flint wanted to get in on it. But the pipeline wouldn't be ready for another couple years. 

That's when the trouble started. Detroit said it would stop selling water to Flint well before the pipeline would be completed. So in April 2014, Flint started drawing water from the Flint River, which corroded the pipes and sent lead into people's homes.

Ten people died from Legionnaires' disease. Citywide, residents and businesses became vulnerable to lead poisoning. People reported hair loss, rashes and sick pets.

Now, months later, the fluid coming out of residents' faucets no longer looks like sewage — for the most part. But like Flint's water, the problems are worse than what you can see.

1. Artina Buggs, a Flint resident, took these photos of the water at her friend's house during the summer and fall of 2015. 

"This is what you get out the faucet from Flint," Buggs told Mic. When it comes to the local government's alleged ignorance to the problem, she added, "they knew all along."

Source: Courtesy: Artina Buggs

2. There have been 87 cases of Legionnaires' disease reported in Flint, resulting in 10 deaths so far.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

3. Debra Wilson, a longtime Flint resident, started noticing her skin breaking out after she took showers.

She told Mic she's already sensitive to metals, but she knew something was wrong when the problems persisted every time she would wash herself.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

4. Water fountains all around the waiting room at the Hamilton Community Health Network building, on the north side of Flint, are covered in plastic bags to keep patients from using them.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

5. The Flint River is so corrosive, officials at the General Motors engine factory in town refuse to use its water, citing damage to their engine parts.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

6. When Flint residents can afford to pick up and leave, they do.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

7. Fire stations around the city have water pickup stations manned by the National Guard. 

Guardsmen told Mic they'd only arrived recently in order to offer support or relieve volunteers who were already passing out water.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

8. Even months after the city switched back to its original water source, residents won't take any chances. 

Here, a visitor arrives at Hurley Medical Center to bring a relative bottled water.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

9. On Tuesday, thousands of Michigan residents and supporters arrived at the Michigan state Capitol building to demand Gov. Rick Snyder's resignation in light of the Flint water crisis

On the other side of the doors, Snyder was delivering his State of the State address.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

10. to 13. The weather in Lansing hovered around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so volunteers arrived with hand warmers to hand out to protesters.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic
Source: Max Plenke/Mic
Source: Max Plenke/Mic
Source: Max Plenke/Mic

14. At one point, word circulated that Snyder was moved to another area of the Capitol building due to the noise the crowd was making. 

But that only made the crowd move locations and get louder.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

15. National Guardsmen were restocked with water throughout Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

16. By the end of the protest, signs were taped around the building to remind Michigan's government of protesters' demands.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

17. Jessica Owens, a Flint resident who has had diluted water for over a year, arrived carrying brown water from her home.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

18. The National Guard handed out Brita filters to anyone who arrived at a fire station — but the filters don't work with hot water, a Guardsman told Mic.

To wash themselves, Flint residents must either boil or microwave the water.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

19. Fortunately, due to donations, the water hasn't run out yet.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

20. While snow fell, Guardsmen waited inside the fire station, ready to carry water to residents who can't do it themselves.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

21. The fire station had been open for only 30 minutes, and there was already a line to receive water, filters and lead-testing kits.

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

22. A local fraternity is stepping up to help.

"I'm glad we're finally getting the attention we need to get this resolved," Bobby Bondon, a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, told Mic. His organization had been donating and handing out water since the summer, long before the National Guard arrived. "But you can only go so long on bottles and gallons of water or whatever," he said. "People still gotta shower and stuff, and people have big families. A case of water passed out a day ain't gonna cut it."

Source: Max Plenke/Mic

There's no word on what's going to happen next or if there will be real, concrete improvements. But Flint residents are pessimistic, and rightfully so: At this point, the city has limited options. Even if Flint can dig up and replace the entire city's piping infrastructure to remove the brittle, beaten lead pipes, it's unclear how long it would take or what residents would do for water in the meantime. 

But there's one thing for certain: The people of Flint need help


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Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

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