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Tests show higher levels of lead in Flint water, but still within state and federal standards

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Steve Carmody
/
Michigan Radio

The latest testing data of Flint’s drinking water shows the highest levels of lead since 2017 — but state officials said those results may be misleading.

In the latest round of Lead and Copper Rule monitoring, spanning the six months from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2021, 90% of water samples collected were at or below 7 parts per billion for lead, compared with 3 parts per billion in the first half of the year.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said those results were still within state and federal standards, which require action when lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion.

It's the sixth consecutive year that lead levels in Flints water have been within acceptable levels, EGLE said.

EGLE spokesperson Scott Dean attributed the rise in this round of tests to an increased percentage of businesses among the test sites. Samples were collected at 71 locations. Among them were 40 homes and 31 businesses, including one church.

“Businesses are a bit different than homes in that quite often you don’t have the usage rates, the flows, and indeed many have had their operations greatly reduced during the pandemic,” said Dean.

He said when water lines sit unused, lead levels can build up, and that's what's behind some of the higher lead measurements in this round of testing.

In fact, the church that was tested has been closed for much of the pandemic. Its water sample tested at 3,492 parts per billion for lead.

Dean said the overall Flint testing data would have been closer to five parts per billion had the businesses second tier had not been included.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said the ongoing testing is part of “rebuilding the community’s trust.”

“These latest results are a testament to the hard work of our health navigators, water advisory and community groups, our state and federal partners and this administration,” said Neeley.

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