In 2015, at least 3.9 million Americans were exposed to lead in their drinking water at legally unacceptable levels. An additional 18 million Americans were at risk because their water systems were not in compliance with federal rules designed to detect the presence of lead contamination and to ameliorate its impact. What’s more, in 82 percent of the cases where the violation related to a health standard, no formal state or federal enforcement action was taken.

These startling statistics indicate that the Flint Water Crisis (“Flint Water”) is not an isolated event. In fact, it is a case study that might explain these statistics. Flint Water reveals a fault line within our cooperative federalism model: We are relying on an increasingly ineffective power structure to guarantee the safety of our water supply, one that places the heaviest burden on the least powerful actor—the water supplier. This article proposes a ‘reset’ of the model in order to achieve safe water and government accountability.

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