Flint: Flush cold water lines to guard against lead

Detroit News wire and staff

Flint — Flint students were told Friday to bring bottled water to school, while the mayor said he’s talked to state officials about switching the water supply, the latest developments related to the risk of lead.

Mayor Dayne Walling acknowledged an increased risk from drinking water from the Flint River, the city’s source since 2014. The water is treated, but it is corrosive and causing lead to leach from old pipes and service lines.

Local doctors reported Thursday that the percentage of children with high lead levels has nearly doubled this year. They recommended a new water source as “soon as possible.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has repeatedly said Flint’s water meets state and federal standards. Brad Wurfel, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said Flint can’t afford to reconnect to Detroit’s system while it waits for a new pipeline to draw water from Lake Huron in 2016.

“Are there discussions about Detroit? The answer is yes,” Walling said.

He said Snyder has a “substantial responsibility” to help solve Flint’s water problems.

An emergency manager appointed by the governor to run Flint during a recent financial crisis decided to put the city on Flint River water.

Snyder spokesman Dave Murray declined to specifically address whether reconnecting to Detroit was still an option.

“It’s important that residents have access to accurate information, and know where they can get their homes tested and have access to medical tests that will ease their minds,” Murray said.

The state has contributed $4.2 million in grants and restructured financing to help the city fix water infrastructure problems and add a carbon filtration system, and continues to provide technical assistance, he said.

Meanwhile, Flint public schools told students to avoid drinking fountains and bring bottled water to class. The district also asked for water donations.

The city issued an advisory, telling people to use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. It also recommended home filters and urged people to flush cold water lines for five minutes.

A local conservationist said the situation spotlights the need to address how the city’s water is treated.

“The city is having trouble figuring out how to adequately treat river water versus the lake water and we are very concerned, as everybody is, about the quality of water that is being delivered to city residents,” Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition, said Friday.

Fedewa said her group is starting to conduct its own testing “just upstream of the drinking water plant and just downstream of the wastewater treatment plant.” Results aren’t available yet, she said.