The Flint water treatment process in pictures

With the Flint water crisis making global news seemingly everyday, here is an inside look at at the Flint Water Treatment Plant. These are pictures from when Flint was utilizing the Flint River as its source from April 2014 through October 2015.

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This is where it all starts. The raw water intake at the Flint River.

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This building houses the pumps that draw water in from the river and then at the end of the process deliver it to the city.

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The raw, untreated water then travels to the ozone building where ozone generators disinfect the water by injecting ozone gas into the water to chemically remove contaminants.

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These are liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen tanks used in the ozonation process. Note the ice on the condensers even in the summer.

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Now it’s off to the coagulation process and the start of Flint’s water woes. Ferric chloride is rapidly mixed in then travels to large settling basins where particles in the water accumulate together and slowly sink to the bottom where they are flushed to the sewer system. It is the ferric chloride that corrodes the pipes in the distribution system. It was causing rust to form on GM’s engine parts at its manufacturing plant that caused GM to drop Flint water and return to Detroit supplied water.

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These are the storage tanks used to hold the ferric chloride. Each tank holds 2,000 gallons.

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A water softening process is next as lime is added to the water via mixers called lime slakers which create a slurry. The slaker contains a shaker to remove grit.

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These are high maintenance machines requiring constant cleaning. The lime starts as a powder and is mixed with water which generates heat quickly. Any steam that isn’t removed will cause the lime to cake as seen here. Machine jams and pipe clogging are common.

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The lime slurry is pumped to a 120 ft. circular clarifier which mixes it in and another coagulation/flocculation process occurs to settle out contaminants. The mixing happens in the center, the water then flows outward and up through a blanket of sludge which traps the larger particles. the clarified water spills out over the top and it’s off to the filters.

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There are a dozen filters that use a layer of anthracite coal on top of sand to trap particulates.

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These filters had to have their media replaced with granulated activated carbon (GAC) due to excessive TTHM problems Flint had in the summer of 2014. TTHM’s, or total trihalomethanes, are byproducts of chlorine reacting with naturally occurring organics in the water. Why didn’t Flint use the GAC from the start? Money, of course, as that’s been the root of all the Flint water problems. Flint finally had to cough up nearly 2 million dollars to replace the media after the news and public outcry even though the GAC won’t be necessary once the new Lake Huron water source comes online in the summer of 2016.

After the filters, the last step is to chlorinate the water. These are one ton cylinders.

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That’s it! It’s now off to the city and the aging distribution system where the lead and possibly the legionella bacteria problems began. Of course there is much more to the water treatment process than these few pictures showed. Here are some more miscellaneous examples.

The two million gallon water tank at the plant.

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The old water plant #1 now abandoned and condemned.

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Decaying Hamilton Dam located in downtown Flint.

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The sludge lagoon located on Bray Rd. where the grit from the lime slakers is pumped to dry. It can then be scraped up and disposed of. This fish didn’t fare so well.

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The new tie-in connection to the Karegnondi pipeline transporting Lake Huron water to the plant in late summer 2016.

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The fluoride pumps used to add fluoride to the water supply. Note the etched glass behind the pumps. What do you suppose that fluoride does to our bodies since the fumes alone can etch glass?

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The Flint Water Department. Maintaining quality water for its customers. No really. Says so right here.

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