Editor’s pickFlint: Lead levels in the water may have returned to normal, but it is still too early to celebrate

29-09-2017

In Flint, Michigan, United States, bottled water is distributed. Image credit: Terray Sylvester/Associated Press

In Flint, Michigan, United States (U.S.), the harrowing water crisis that plagued the financially-strapped industrial city has been declared over. But Marc Edwards, a research scientist from Virginia Tech, who had first warned the city of lethal levels of lead in the water, also recommended the continual use of water filters, warning that while the crisis has blown over, multiple residents would take a long time to rebuild the trust they had had in government officials who had initially waved their concerns aside.

“Today, we have equally definitive data showing that the levels of these parameters currently in Flint water are now back to normal levels for a city with old lead pipes,” Edwards said to the Guardian in an interview. “Obviously, there is still a crisis of confidence among Flint residents that’s not going to be restored anytime soon. It’s beyond the reach of science to solve – it can only be addressed by years of trustworthy behaviour by government agencies, who unfortunately lost that trust, deservedly, in the first place.”

For the fifth, and possibly final time, Edwards and his team collected water samples from 138 homes in the stricken city for testing, and found that the levels of lead in the water has continued to remain well under the federal safety standard of 15 parts-per-billion.

From the beginning of spring in 2014 and for at least one a half years, the water in Flint was contaminated with lead as a new pipeline to Lake Huron was built. In the meantime, the city used water sourced from the Flint river. But as the water was left untreated in order to reduce corrosion, lead was leached from old pipes and fixtures, tainting the water.

Elevated levels of lead, which was found in the water in Flint, can potentially cause miscarriages and developmental issues among other problems, and were found in some children in the city. The crisis has also resulted in multiple lawsuits filed by a number of residents, and 15 current and former government officials being charges with crimes, including involuntary manslaughter.

Although a federal judge approved a milestone deal to replace both lead and galvanised steel water pipelines in 18,000 homes by 2020, with more than 3,000 lines having been replaced so far, and further 6,000 to be replaced this year, Edwards has made his concern regarding federal lead and copper rules and regulations known, calling them several years out of date, according to the Guardian. However, he has also notably praised the states and cities who are working towards stricter standards.

“We all owe Flint a huge debt of gratitude for exposing this problem nationally,” he added.

 

Source: The Guardian