Flint to ‘flush’ hydrants in push for water quality

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Flint is working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to install automatic “flushing” devices on fire hydrants throughout the city, the latest step in an ongoing effort toward recovery from the ongoing water crisis.

Mayor Karen Weaver’s office announced the new initiative Monday, saying an initial batch of 15 devices will be programmed to release a “low, controlled flow” of water from select hydrants, mostly at night.

“Flushing the water distribution system helps to maintain residual chlorine and orthophosphate at the levels needed to accelerate the system’s recovery process,” the city said.

The hydrant project comes just days after state and federal officials publicly discussed the possibility of a city-wide flushing effort.

They may eventually ask residents to run water in their own homes for several minutes a day to help remove lead particles that continue to flake off damaged pipes, which are being recoated with corrosion control chemicals.

Flint’s water system is “recovering” but remains “unstable,” said Robert Kaplan, the acting regional administrator for the EPA, last week. Tap filters are effective at removing the lead levels seen in Flint, he said Friday, but many residents remain wary and continue to rely on bottled water.

“The most important thing we can do for the system right now is deal with those particles, the particulate lead,” Kaplan said Friday. “The only way to deal with that is to have the residents flush the system.”

Residential flushing could lead to additional costs for water customers, but Weaver’s office on Monday emphasized that the planned hydrant flushing will not affect resident bills.

“If the flushers happen to run during the day, residents will see water flowing from the device,” the city said. “The installation and operation of the automatic flushers will have no effect on water usage by residents and businesses, or their water bills.”

Officials from the state, federal and city governments are planning a Flint forum on April 16 to discuss recent water quality tests and strategies.