Tainted Tap

Flint's Journey from Crisis to Recovery

By Katrinell M. Davis

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 5 maps, 6 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6332-6
    Published: May 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6211-4
    Published: April 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5467-4
    Published: April 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6210-7
    Published: May 2021

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After a cascade of failures left residents of Flint, Michigan, without a reliable and affordable supply of safe drinking water, citizens spent years demanding action from their city and state officials. Complaints from the city’s predominantly African American residents were ignored until independent researchers confirmed dangerously elevated blood lead levels among Flint children and in the city’s tap water. Despite a 2017 federal court ruling in favor of Flint residents who had demanded mitigation, those efforts have been incomplete at best.

Assessing the challenges that community groups faced in their attempts to advocate for improved living conditions, Tainted Tap offers a rich analysis of conditions and constraints that created the Flint water crisis. Katrinell Davis contextualizes the crisis in Flint’s long and troubled history of delivering essential services, the consequences of regional water-management politics, and other forms of systemic neglect that impacted the working-class community’s health and well-being. Using ethnographic and empirical evidence from a range of sources, Davis also sheds light on the forms of community action that have brought needed changes to this underserved community.

About the Author

Katrinell Davis is associate professor of sociology at Florida State University and author of Hard Work Is Not Enough: Gender and Racial Equality in an Urban Workspace.
For more information about Katrinell M. Davis, visit the Author Page.


“In this urgent volume, sociologist Katrinell Davis provides a useful framework for examining the dramatic, deadly effects of systemic environmental racism and explores what underserved communities might do to counteract mismanagement and neglect of essential service delivery.”--Ms. Magazine

"Davis not only situates the Flint Water Crisis in important historical and political events, but she also unveils entirely new evidence, producing a poignant and convincing analysis . . . . accessible and important for wide-reaching audiences, including activists, policymakers, practitioners, and scholars."—Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

"Flint holds an important place in our popular conscience. National reporting about the extensive toxic contamination in that city simultaneously served as a wake-up call for some Americans and an overdue acknowledgment for others. This nuanced yet accessible book uses Flint to raise awareness about environmental racism as a widespread, systemic, and complex problem that goes beyond corroded pipes."--Tamara Leech, Montclair State University

“A brilliant, engaging, and sharp analysis of the Flint disaster. Davis’s research, meticulous and comprehensive, reveals the layers of mistreatment and abandonment endured for decades by the residents of this discarded city.”--Alice Fothergill, University of Vermont

"Davis's analysis makes clear that Flint is not a one-off; rather, the poisoning and ongoing suffering in Flint is the outcome of a system of racialized capitalism that continues to disregard Black communities, families, and children. Tainted Tap provides an important road map for individuals interested in understanding and addressing environmental racism in Flint and beyond."--Heather Dalmadge, Roosevelt University