IP Case Study Proposition

1). Choose Case

Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

2). Introductory Story

Prior to 2014, Flint, Michigan had been relying on water from Lake Huron for almost 50 years.  This water was extremely high quality, however the water prices were among the most expensive in the country due to this.  Due to the fact that Flint has such a high poverty rate, the affordability of the water became a major concern and those the city voted to switch to a new city-run water system.  Until that water system was built and completed, the residents would receive water from the Flint River. However, the emergency management team that was appointed to oversee this switch in water systems failed to address the complexities that come with treating river water for residents compared to treating lake water.  Almost immediately after switching to the Flint River, citizens were exposed to high levels of toxins and pollutants and started seeing negative health effects as a result.

3). Suggest sources

The Flint, Michigan water crisis has been very well covered since 2014. Not only were the health issues that arose from the switching of water sources a big deal, but the decision to switch in the first place was a big news story.  The are countless articles online covering the entire timeline of the crisis up to the current state of Flint’s water situation. Many of these articles come from reliable and well-known media companies. Several state employees and representatives were charged with criminal wrongdoings after the health issues started to arise.  Looking into the charges and reading any documents from the court dates and rulings on the employees as a whole can help us better understand the entire situation and where it went wrong. Based on the charges brought forward to the employees, we can also make better suggestions for possible solutions.

· https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/02/01/flint-water-crisis-explained-jpm-orig.cnn

· http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/07/10/flint-water-crisis-poisoned-city

· https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jul/03/nothing-to-worry-about-the-water-is-fine-how-flint-michigan-poisoned-its-people

· https://www.businessinsider.com/michigan-made-flint-water-crisis-worse-2018

· https://pagecentertraining.psu.edu/public-relations-ethics/transparency/transparency/case-study-tbd/

IP Case Study Proposition

· (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. What could have possibly lead to the water supply coming from Lake Flint rather than the cleany supply abundantly found in nearby Detroit?

This case will examine what changed 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)  Introduction = Introduce the reader to the major events and players of the story. Orient them. Assume that they know nothing of the case. Who-What-Where-When. This is the plotline of the case that leads ineluctably toward your story.


· (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.


· (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) 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)Timeline = 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: In an effort to save money, Flint begins drawing water from the Flint River for its 100,000 residents, instead of relying on water from Detroit. The move is considered temporary while the city waits to connect to a new regional water system. Residents immediately complain 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: A group of doctors urges Flint to stop using the Flint River for water after finding high levels of lead in the blood of children. State regulators insist the water is safe.

Sept. 29, 2015: Gov. Rick Snyder pledges to take action in response to the lead levels — the first acknowledgment by the state that lead is a problem.

October 2015: Snyder announces that the state will spend $1 million to buy water filters and test water in Flint public schools, and days later calls for Flint to go back to using water from Detroit’s system.

Oct. 15, 2015: The Michigan Legislature and Snyder approve nearly $9.4 million in aid to Flint, including $6 million to help switch its drinking water back to Detroit.

Dec. 29, 2015: Snyder accepts the resignation of Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologizes for what occurred in Flint.

Jan. 5, 2016: Snyder declares a state of emergency in Flint, the same day federal officials confirm that they are investigating. A week later, the Michigan National Guard begins helping to distribute bottled water and filters, while Snyder asks the federal government for help.

Jan. 13, 2016: Michigan health officials report an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases — some fatal — over the past two years in the county that includes Flint.

Jan. 14, 2016: Snyder asks the Obama administration for major disaster declaration and more federal aid. The White House provides federal aid and an emergency declaration on Jan. 16, but not the disaster declaration.

Jan. 15, 2016: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette begins an “independent review” into the Flint crisis.

Mid-March. 2016: State officials testify before Congress, including Snyder and the state-appointed emergency manager who oversaw Flint when the water source was switched to the river.

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.

April 20, 2016: Two state officials and a local official are charged with evidence tampering and other crimes in the Michigan attorney general’s investigation — the first to be levied in the probe.

Aug. 14: 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. 2: Researchers report that water in Flint is improving after finding no detectable levels of lead in 57 percent of homes during another round of tests. But they caution residents to continue using filters.

Dec. 10: Congress approves a wide-ranging bill to authorize water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in Flint’s drinking water.

Dec. 16: Congressional Republicans quietly close a yearlong investigation into Flint’s crisis, faulting both state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dec. 20: Schuette charges former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose with multiple 20-year felonies for their failure to protect the residents of Flint from health hazards caused by contaminated drinking water. He also charges Earley, Ambrose and two Flint city employees 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.

Feb. 17: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issues a report that finds “systemic racism” going back decades is at the core of problems that caused the water crisis in the majority black city of Flint.

March 16: Snyder announces that his administration will enact the country’s toughest lead limit for water in the wake of the lead contamination in Flint.

March 28: Water lines at 18,000 homes in Flint will be replaced under a landmark deal approved by a judge, marking a milestone in the effort to overcome the disastrous decision in 2014 to draw water from the Flint River without treating it to prevent lead contamination.

June 14: 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.