WSW: Book Examines Water Crisis And How Flint Became "Vulnerable In The First Place"

Sep 16, 2018

Credit Courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Journalist Anna Clark says she’s written many stories about urban policy in Detroit and Flint. As the water crisis in Flint unfolded she said it was more than could be said even in a long form article.


The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and America’s Urban Tragedy tells the story of lead contamination in Flint’s water, and Clark says “how a city becomes vulnerable in the first place.” It examines how Flint and other cities were “set up to fail.”  Clark will discuss her book at Bookbug in Kalamazoo on Wednesday night September 19th.

Despite complaints of discolored water with a strange taste and then reports of illness in Flint, there was a long delay before the state acknowledged a problem. Clark says the state had difficulty seeing a connected problem that was getting worse. She says state officials “thought they could run out the clock.” Clark says the idea was to use the Flint River as the source for a few years before a new water system was ready. She says it’s a credit to people on the ground in the Flint who continued working to bring attention to the problem.

Chapter 11 of Clark’s book - Truth and reconciliation – chronicles the state’s acknowledgment of problems with Flint’s water. Clark says there are court cases that will determine how much “truth and reconciliation” there will be. She says it’s important that there be greater transparency in state government.

The book also has chapters called Revelations and Genesis. Clark says that’s a nod to how important churches are in Flint. She says it’s also a reference of the mythic importance of water. Clark says there is a higher responsibility that we all have to protect water and make sure it is safe to drink when it gets to people’s homes.