Read our report on the Flint, Michigan water crisis one year on. What has changed, and what can be done to stop this from happening again?
In late 2014, early 2015 there was a massive outbreak of lead poisoning in the city of Flint, Michigan. There were two reasons this outbreak occurred; a switch of water supplier without proper study of the new source, and an aging drinking water infrastructure of corroding pipes. In late 2014, Flint switched its main supply of drinking water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. The city at this point failed to test the water supply they were switching to with proper corrosion inhibitor tests. This caused the pipes through which the water was flowing, (which were very old and made of lead), to begin to leach lead into the drinking water.
There were many reports and complaints of the water quality almost instantly once the switch was made, but most of these were completely ignored by state officials. By the time the state realized their mistake and switched their water supply back to the Lake Huron and the Detroit River, it was too late and the water was filled with hazardous lead. To make matters worse, the citizens of Flint had been unknowingly drinking this contaminated water for several months already. High levels of lead are very dangerous for the old, infirm, pregnant, and especially children. From reports on the matter, anywhere from 6,000 – 12,000 children could be presented with additional health issues in the future due to the faulty pipes.
One Year Later:
In January of 2016 President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin helping. President Obama also awarded Flint 5 million dollars in aid to help fix the pipes. This however was just a start, and in March of 2016 the city began to conduct testing and support for children under 6 with elevated lead levels. They also started to replace over 8,000 lead line services in the state, as well as all the water fixtures for state and public buildings.
In July of 2016, the state began to re-test and evaluate the city’s water. Even after replacing the lines with better pipes, switching their water source back, and mixing additives into the current water supply; the water is still at unsafe levels. After research into why, it was found that the additives were not working as projected due to the lack of water usage in the city. Because the water had been unsafe for so long, residents were no longer comfortable using, let alone drinking, the city’s water. This has made it difficult for the additives which will counteract the high volume of lead in the water, to reach a majority of the contaminated water.
To help ease this disaster, free bottled water is distributed to the citizens of Flint, as well as making sure that homes have the use of a water filter, which helps purify the water of contaminants. At this point the real issue is time. It takes a long time to replace an entire city’s water piping, and even more money to do so. If done improperly, the new piping can cause an even bigger problem than the old systems lead leaching. This means painstaking amounts of manpower and work hours to get the unfiltered water back to safe drinkable levels. The current state of affairs in Flint is still rocky, however things are looking up. Hopefully by this time next year the city will be fitted with new piping and it’s citizens will no longer fret over using their water.
If you’re concerned about the threat of lead in your drinking water, the best kind of water filter to safeguard against it is a reverse osmosis water filter. Check out our guide to reverse osmosis filters to find out more.
Image: By U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, photographer not specified or unknown – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual LibraryImage pageImage description pageDigital Visual Library home page, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1857842