New data suggest Flint's water quality slowly improving
Governor Snyder’s office says new data show water quality improving in "at-risk" homes in Flint.
For months, the government has been testing the tap water in dozens of homes in Flint for lead.
After five rounds of testing, the "sentinel" testing has been expanded to include more homes most likely to have elevated leads levels. That includes homes:
· with known lead service lines,
· that had service lines the state paid to replace under the mayor’s Fast Start Program,
· with copper and galvanized service lines found to have high lead levels during the original sentinel program
· from areas where the incidence of elevated blood lead levels were predicted to be higher.
124 of the 160 homes now in the program were tested as part of the original sentinel program.
Of 124 homes, 79% tested with lead levels at or below 15 parts per billion, the federal action level, in the past. In the latest round of testing, the number climbed to 94% at or below the federal action level for lead. Ninety percent tested at or below 10 parts per billion, which is where Gov. Snyder wants to place the action level in Michigan.
State officials say the data show efforts to restore a protective coating within Flint’s damaged pipes is working.
“The fact that we’re seeing high risk sites, with unfiltered water, testing below and in some cases well below the federal action level is very promising for the recovery of Flint water system and for the recovery of that city,” says Ari Adler, Gov. Snyder’s spokesman.
Adler says last month’s city-wide flushing program may be a reason for the improvement.
He says the latest round of testing took place mainly after a city-wide flushing program in May. Flint residents were encouraged to run their taps for five minutes a day for 14 days last month. The idea was to flush out lead particles in the system and help restore a coating within the pipes to reduce the amount of lead leaching from the pipes into the tap water.
It will be a few more weeks before city and state officials will be able to assess how many Flint residents may have actually taken part in the flushing program.
Meanwhile, efforts to replace aging lead service lines are slowly moving forward. The pipes are the prime source for the lead tainting Flint’s drinking water.
Later this week, the city of Flint will receive bids on contracts to replace up to 500 service lines. The proposed state budget contains $25 million to remove additional pipes. The total cost to replace all of Flint’s suspect service lines in more than $50 million.