Poisoned Water

What exactly went wrong in Flint—and what does it mean for the rest of the country? Airing May 31, 2017 at 9 pm on PBS Aired May 31, 2017 on PBS

Program Description

Water. Turn on the faucet and it’s always there. Without it we perish. But how safe is our tap water? In this special report narrated by Joe Morton, NOVA investigates what happened in Flint, Michigan, when local officials changed the city’s water source to save money, but overlooked a critical treatment process. As the water pipes corroded, lead leached into the system, exposing the community—including thousands of children—to dangerous levels of poison. NOVA uncovers the science behind this manmade disaster— from the intricacies of water chemistry to the biology of lead poisoning to the misuse of science itself. NOVA follows ordinary citizens and independent scientists who exposed the danger lurking in Flint’s water and confronted those who turned a blind eye. And discover the disturbing truth that reaches far beyond Flint—water systems across the country are similarly vulnerable. How can we protect ourselves from poisoned water?

Broadcast Credits

NARRATED BY
Joe Morton
EDITED BY
Robert Kirwan
PRODUCED BY
Llewellyn Smith
Kelly Thomson
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Llewellyn Smith
SCIENCE EDITOR
Caitlin Saks
RESEARCHER AND ARCHIVIST
Franziska Blome
ADDITIONAL EDITING
Myra Boutros
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Vicente Franco
ADDITIONAL CAMERA
Daniel Traub
Nolan Yee
Jason Longo
Jon Tichota
DRONE FOOTAGE
Stephen Smith
ASSISTANT EDITOR
Danielle Myers
ANIMATION
Mitch Butler
Chris Dye
SOUND RECORDISTS
Mark Haygen
Cameron McLaughlin
Chris Beaudry
Joe Campbell
Ken Petrosky
Mark Broe
GRIPS
Jake Heim
Robert Paul Simpson
LOCATION SCOUT - FLINT
Mike Naddeo
INTERNS
Bluyé DeMessie
Hannah Loss
Rachel Aviles
ONLINE EDITOR AND COLORIST
David Bigelow
AUDIO MIX
Heart Punch Studio
NARRATION RECORD
Gramercy Post
TRANSCRIPTION
Karen Weitzel
Leslie Strain
Daily Transcription
ACCOUNTANT
Helen Yung
MUSIC
APM Music
ARCHIVAL MATERIAL
AFP
American Journal of Public Health
The Associated Press
CNN
Detroit Free Press via ZUMA Press
ESRI
Flint Journal/MLive
GettyImages
Jim West/ZUMA Press
Michigan Radio
Pond5
Shutterstock
The Detroit News
The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
Virginia Tech
WKAR Public Media - Michigan State University
WNEM5-TV
WJRT-TV
TIME LAPSE EXPERIMENT
Owen Strom
Dan Mirolli
Jordan Fifer
SPECIAL THANKS
Robert W. Barnett
Julie Barrett
Todd Bechler
David Bellinger
Cathy Bernardino Bailey
Janice Berryman
Robert C. Bielitz
Charlena Bowling
The Broadnax Family
Madeleine Brouse
Tiffany Brown
Tyler Brown
Bernadette Burden
Ilene Cantor
Cincinnati Children’s
Keith Creagh
Cummings Great Expectations
Dongjuan Dai
Michael DeSantis
Christina Devine
Kim Dietrich
Matthew Dowolle
Timothy Edwards
Susi Elkins
EPA, National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Bryce Feighner
James Feuer
Flint Water Treatment Plant
Emily Garner
Mary Gottler
Rhonda and Jeffrey Grayer
Greater Cincinnati Water Works
Tomas Guilarte
Stephen Harmon
Evelyn Hartzell
Susan Hedman
Andrew Highsmith
Hurley Medical Center
Thomas Jacobus
Fathi Jedid
Rebecca Jensen
Pan Ji
Robert A. Kaplan
Martin Kaufman
Congressman Dan Kildee
Ja Yi Kirwan
Yanna Lambrinidou
Tammy Lash
Monica Lee
Yeongho Lee
Kennedy Luster
Darren A. Lytle
Sharneese Magee
Megan Maguire
Anurag Mantha
Rebekah Martin
Barry Maynard
Katie McCormick
JoLisa McDay
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Kristin Moore
Kaylie Mosteller
Regan Murray
David Nakamura
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Victoria E. Nystrom
James O’Hara
Jonathan Pressman
Michele Prevost
Jeannie Purchase
David Reckhow
Calista Reynolds
Vanessa Reynolds
William Rhoads
Roma Restaurant, Blacksburg
David Rosner
Ronnie Russell
Saints of God Church
Otto Schwake 
Kevin Shafer
Michael Shore
Cynthia Sonich-Mullin
Patric Stanton
Annie Stopford
Rachel Tisdale
Jennifer Tully
Jean Vaughan
Virginia Tech
Dennis, Garrett & Gavin Walters
Fei Wang
Water Warehouse & C Pod 9 Staff
Brynne Williams
Woodside Church
W. T. Stevens Construction Crew
Yaoxing Wu
John Young
State of Michigan Flint Water Response Team
Max Elsner
NOVA SERIES GRAPHICS
yU + co.
NOVA THEME MUSIC
Walter Werzowa
John Luker
Musikvergnuegen, Inc.
ADDITIONAL NOVA THEME MUSIC
Ray Loring
Rob Morsberger
CLOSED CAPTIONING
The Caption Center
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Jennifer Welsh
PUBLICITY
Eileen Campion
Eddie Ward
NOVA ADMINISTRATOR
Anne Barleon
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
Linda Callahan
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL AUDIENCE RESEARCH
Cory Allen
PARALEGAL
Sarah Erlandson
TALENT RELATIONS
Janice Flood
LEGAL COUNSEL
Susan Rosen
DIGITAL MANAGING PRODUCER
Kristine Allington
SENIOR DIGITAL EDITOR
Tim De Chant
DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL MEDIA
Lauren Aguirre
RIGHTS MANAGER
Lauren Miller
POST PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
Brittany Flynn
SUPERVISING PRODUCER
Kevin Young
POST PRODUCTION EDITOR
Michael H. Amundson
BROADCAST MANAGER
Nathan Gunner
BUSINESS MANAGER
Ariam McCrary
DEVELOPMENT PRODUCER
David Condon
PROJECT DIRECTOR
Pamela Rosenstein
COORDINATING PRODUCER
Elizabeth Benjes
SENIOR SCIENCE EDITOR
Evan Hadingham
SENIOR PRODUCER
Chris Schmidt
SENIOR SERIES PRODUCER
Melanie Wallace
DIRECTOR, BUSINESS OPERATIONS & FINANCE
Laurie Cahalane
DEPUTY EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Julia Cort
SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Paula S. Apsell

A NOVA production by BlueSpark Collaborative, LLC for WGBH Boston.

© 2017 WGBH Educational Foundation

All rights reserved

This program was produced by WGBH, which is solely responsible for its content.

Original funding for this program was provided by 23andMe, the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the George D. Smith Fund, the Millicent and Eugene Bell Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

IMAGE:

Image credit (pipe from Flint)
© WGBH Educational Foundation

Participants

Elin Betanzo
Northeast-Midwest Institute
Kim Cecil
Cincinnati Lead Study
Miguel Del Toral
EPA Region 5
Darnell Earley
Flint Emergency Manager, 2013-2015
Marc Edwards
Virginia Tech
Felipe Gatica
Flint Resident
Lisa Gould-Maliszewski
Flint Resident
Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD
Hurley Children's Hospital
Cherkeetha Love
Flint Water Response Team
Gina Luster
Flint Resident
Veo Luster
Water Distribution Specialist
Claire McClinton
Flint Resident
Michael McDaniel
Flint FAST Start Program
Jeffrey Parks
Virginia Tech
Amy Pruden
Virginia Tech
Siddhartha Roy
Virginia Tech
Michael R. Schock
EPA Office of Research and Development
Bill Schuette
Michigan Attorney General
Jeff Swertfeger
Greater Cincinnati Water Works
Dayne Walling
Former Mayor of Flint
LeeAnne Walters
Flint Resident
Eden Wells
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Brad Wurfel
MDEQ Spokesperson

Resources

Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water
www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water
This page provides general information about lead in drinking water and offers suggestions on what actions you can take to reduce or determine lead levels.

Protect Your Family from Exposure to Lead
www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead#main-content
Learn more about the leading sources of lead, how to make your home safe, and how to protect children from lead in the areas they play.

Test Your Drinking Water at a State-certified Lab
www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/programs/default.htm
You may have your drinking water tested by contacting a laboratory certified by your state or territory.

Test Your Drinking Water at an Independent Lab
hbbf.org/lead-test-kits
Healthy Babies Bright Futures is an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations, and donors working to measurably reduce children’s exposure to neurotoxic chemicals. They’re teaming up with Dr. Marc Edwards—the scientist who helped identify and expose unsafe lead levels in the Flint, Michigan—and his Virginia Tech laboratory to offer affordable home water testing to families.

Do you have lead pipes in your home?
apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro
Millions of homes across the country get water from lead service lines that connect the main drinking water line in the street to our homes. This step-by-step app will guide you to find out whether your home is one of them.

Find Out What’s in Your Local Water Supply
ofmpub.epa.gov/apex/safewater/f?p=ccr_wyl:102
Every year, the Environmental Protection Agency publishes a drinking water quality report from your local water supplier. Follow the link to find the report for your water supply.

Lead Poisoning and Health
www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs379/en/
People can become exposed to lead either by breathing or swallowing lead particles. Young children are particularly vulnerable because they absorb more than adults from a given source. This page provides more information about the health effects of lead poisoning.

Flint Water Study
flintwaterstudy.org
Stay up to date on the collaboration between the Virginia Tech research team and citizen scientists of Flint, Michigan in this blog. Many of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents acquired by Virginia Tech, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others can be found at this site.

Preview | 0:30

Full Program | 54:07

Full program available for streaming through

Watch Online
Full program available
Soon