The Chemistry of Crisis: What Happened to Flint’s Water?

An Earth Day Celebration

Apr 16, 2016, MCFTA Lobby

1801 St Andrews St. Midland MI 48640

2-3:30 pm




Metals such as iron, copper and lead are widely used in water distribution systems.  All these materials can corrode.  A lesson in the critical importance of corrosion control can be seen in the recent problems in Flint.  Flint was once a robust city due to a booming automotive industry, but for nearly 50 years hasbeen suffering an economic decline so severe that it has compromised the ability of the city to provide essential services.  The City of Flint is currently home to about 99,000 residents, down from a peak of ~197,000 in 1960. For the decade prior, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) supplied drinking water to the city from Lake Huron. In an attempt to reduce costs, on April 25, 2014, the City of Flint began operation of their own drinking water treatment plant using water from the Flint River as the source. In the subsequent weeks, the drinking water quality for Flint residents plummeted. Residents complained of red colored water.  A rapid increase in water use also occurred. High levels of lead were seen in the water in many residences.  This was only the beginning of months of problems that have now led to the City, State and Federal governments declaring a state of emergency in Flint.  What really happened in terms of the science and engineering of water treatment?  What have we learned and what is being done to address this situation? How can events such as this be prevented from happening at other locations?

The Chemistry of Crisis -Earth Day April 16



Dr. Masten teaches water and wastewater engineering, physico-chemical processes, air pollution, and capstone design in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University.  Her research involves the use of chemical oxidants for the remediation of soils, water, and leachates contaminated with hazardous organic chemicals. She has worked extensively on the development of drinking water treatment technologies for the control of disinfection byproducts, nanoparticles, bromate, and pharmaceuticals in drinking water.  Dr.

Masten holds a patent on a hybrid ceramic membrane filtration and an ozone-fluidized bed carbon systems. She has published over 100 publications and graduated over 50 MS students and 12 Ph.D. students.