"Eight years ago this spring, unelected bureaucrats in Flint, Mich., switched the city’s municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The sting of the decision persists to this day. Not just because of the evidence that the water contamination resulting from the switch led to greatly increased levels of lead in the city’s children or a surge in skin rashes, hair loss, and intestinal issues in the broader resident population. And not just because Flint residents, years after the water has been declared safe, are still vigorously opposed to drinking it.
What also persists is a domino effect of negative press and public perception sparked by the water crisis. Predominant views that Flint still has contaminated water has fueled an exodus of residents — some 15,000 (roughly 15 percent of the population) having left since the crisis began — and scared-off potential transplants and investors. Research by our team and others shows the collective impact: torpedoed property values and stunted tourism, hospitality, and foodservice industries across Flint — and a stigmatized population."