The Flint Water Crisis
An Introduction to Chemical Reactions
Division of Science and Wellness
The University of New Mexico—Valencia Campus
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, provides a compelling context for understanding the importance of each of the major classes of chemical reactions: precipitation reactions, acid-base reactions, and oxidation-reduction reactions. Each of these reaction types was integral to the failure of the water system in Flint and led to traumatic results for the local inhabitants. Students prepare for this case study by reading an article from Chemical & Engineering News, reviewing the definitions of these reaction types in their textbook, and answering a set of ten questions. The classroom activity is guided by a PowerPoint presentation with further information and an additional series of questions that students work through in class. The case is suitable for high school and lower-level undergraduate general chemistry students.
- Identify chemical reactions as precipitation, acid-base, or oxidation-reduction.
- Write balanced chemical equations for each type of chemical reaction.
- Use a solubility table to identify the products and spectator ions of precipitation reactions.
- Identify the oxidation state of simple species (metals and simple non-metals).
- Identify the oxidizing agent and reducing agent of oxidation/reduction reactions.
Keywordsprecipitation reactions; acid-base reactions; oxidation-reduction reactions; ox-redox; Flint; lead; passivation; redox;
Topical AreasRegulatory issues, Social justice issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDirected, Clicker
Subject HeadingsChemistry (General) | Environmental Science | Engineering (General) | Environmental Engineering | Chemical Engineering | Civil Engineering |
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