Identifying the Causes, Consequences, and Solutions to the Flint Water Crisis Through Collaborative Modeling

Steven Gray, Alison Singer, Laura Schmitt-Olabisi, Josh Introne, Jane Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The impacts of the Flint Water Crisis (FWC) present municipal and state officials, emergency responders, community organizations, and residents with considerable uncertainties about how to reorganize and respond in the wake of tragedy. In addition to the collapse of infrastructure and governance systems, the community is experiencing a collapse of its communication and knowledge-sharing networks, specifically between those directly impacted by the crisis and those involved in the emergency response. In this article, we summarize what we learned from a community engagement process that took place in the winter and spring of 2016 after widespread acknowledgment of the FWC and review the (1) results of five "participatory modeling" workshops with residents carried out in the city of Flint and (2) results of a follow-up cultural consensus survey administered to Flint residents and FWC responders engaged in the recovery to evaluate the degree of agreement among actors about the dynamics of the FWC. The modeling exercise revealed that Flint residents perceive that long-term racial and economic marginalization and political disenfranchisement led to the FWC. Cultural consensus data indicate that nonresidents are less likely to share this view about the causes of the crisis; however, there was more agreement between Flint residents and nonresidents around the consequences of, and solutions to, the FWC. Agreement around potential solutions is encouraging, but if recovery efforts fail to address Flint residents' underlying concerns about long-term marginalization and disenfranchisement, there is a risk of further erosion of trust and communication between residents, state officials, and emergency responders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • communities
  • lead poisoning
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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