Rusting Engine Blocks Canary in Coal Mine for Flint Water Crisis
General Motors’ Engine Plant Quickly Identified Issue, Switched Sources
The municipal water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has made national headlines for claims of government cover-ups and incompetence and insistence that the water was safe when it was coming out of taps orange and cloudy. However, the warning signs that something may have been amiss with the Flint municipal water supply go back to the summer of 2014 when workers at General Motors’ Flint Engine plant noticed that engine blocks were showing unusual levels of corrosion coming out of the machining process. The high level of chloride in the water was identified as the issue.
Due to its fortuitous location on the border of Flint and Flint Township, a separate municipality, the plant was able to switch water supplies. Flint Township sources its water from the Detroit water system, which Flint had previously used. The Flint Engine plant produces 3.6L V-6 engines used in the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, and GMC Acadia crossovers, and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks.
GM is the largest employer in Flint, with the origins of the company dating back to William Durant having roots in the city. Many residents are second and third-generation residents, with parents and grandparents being GM retirees. GM has donated $50,000 to the local United Way for the purchase of water filters for residents. UAW Local 599, the union chapter representing plant workers, has been active in delivering bottled water to the citizens of Flint.
Source: Crain’s Detroit Business