State: Flint’s water quality continues to improve

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

State officials say the latest round of sampling in Flint provides more evidence that the water quality is improving in the city’s troubled pipeline system.

In the sixth round of testing, 94 percent of 124 homes targeted were at or below the federal standard of having lead of 15 parts per billion — the level that triggers action, according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office. About 90 percent of the homes were at or below 10 parts per billion.

In the prior round of testing, 79 percent of the homes were at or below the federal standard.

Five prior rounds of testing showed gradual improvements in the number of Flint homes that were exceeding federal lead-in-water standards. The state’s sentinel testing program draws samples from sites around the Genesee County city to monitor lead contamination.

The sixth round targeted some of the most problematic parts of the city’s water grid — 160 homes most likely to be at risk of lead contamination.

“The new information that this program provides will be important in determining what is happening in the most challenging parts of the water distribution system,” Snyder said in a Monday statement. “This data will bring us closer to being able to understand the areas of concern and address them.”

Homes included in the latest round of sentinel testing included:

■Sites with lead service lines.

■Service lines recently replaced under Flint’s Fast Start Program.

■Sites with copper or galvanized lines previously determined to have high lead levels.

For more than two years, Flint has struggled with water quality issues, most notably high levels of lead contamination. In addition, the area has also seen a spike in cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including 12 deaths and 79 illnesses.

Those troubles parallel a period when the city drew its water from the Flint River and failed to properly treat it with corrosion controls designed to prevent lead contamination.

In October, Flint switched back to its traditional water source, the Great Lakes Water Authority. State and local officials hoped a return to properly treated drinking water would fix the contamination problems in a matter of weeks.

Progress has been slower than expected. Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, whose work helped first discover Flint’s lead contamination problems, said the city has been hindered by low usage rates over the last six months.

Population loss combined with residents who are afraid to use what’s coming out of their taps means less water is being pulled through the system, giving corrosion-controlling phosphates less of a chance to do their job.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

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