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A new round of testing shows Flint’s troubled water distribution system continuing to make progress, but it remains short of where it needs to be to restore public confidence.

Of water samples taken at designated sentinel sites around the city, 93.5 percent showed lead levels below the 15 parts per billion standard set by the federal government. That number, from the fifth and final round of sentinel testing, continues a slow trend upward toward compliance. Earlier this month, testing showed 92.7 percent of samples met the standard.

State officials continue to urge residents to utilize filtered or bottled water.

Experts believe pipelines serving the city were damaged during an 18-month period when Flint drew its water from the Flint River. During that stretch, which started in April 2014, the city failed to utilize corrosion controls that essentially coat the inside of pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the water.

Flint switched back to its previous source from the Great Lakes Water Authority in October. That means corrosion controls have been in use for roughly six months.

“While the system has come a long way, we are exercising caution as we look more closely at the unpredictable spikes that continue to show up in tests,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a press release.

“We are letting the science drive decisions on Flint water quality and not an arbitrary date. We will declare unfiltered water drinkable again only when the data proves it to be so. We expect that for some residents, that is going to require the replacement of unsafe pipes.”

Particulate lead continues to be a problem in Flint’s system. Pieces of lead that come off the pipelines often find their way into water samples, resulting in spikes when testing is done. To combat the problem, state and federal officials have urged residents to flush their faucets each day.

Low water usage in Flint is believed to be at the heart of the slow pace of the system’s recovery. To help speed the process, residents have been asked to run faucets bathtubs five minutes a day over a two-week period.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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