Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Flint's Latest Conundrum? People Aren't Using Enough Water

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Flint's Latest Conundrum? People Aren't Using Enough Water

Article excerpt

LANSING, Mich. - Flint residents who've grown accustomed to using bottled water and avoiding the faucet are getting new instructions: Turn on the taps. The conundrum, expert Marc Edwards said Tuesday, is that residents afraid of using the water aren't running enough of it to rid the system of toxic lead. People aren't showering as much, are leery of drinking or cooking with tap water even with faucet filters, and don't want to pay higher bills for water they're not using, despite the state helping to offset rates.

But that's slowing efforts to clean out lead deposits and effectively recoat the pipes and plumbing to make them safe again, said Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor who helped expose the problem in Flint. While lead levels are lower, he said without more water use it could take months or even years to rid the system of contamination. "We've got to get more water flowing through the system, he said Tuesday in Blacksburg, Virginia.

"Who's going to pay for that? asked resident Mona Munroe-Younis, whose family is using the tap water but only after installing a filtration machine and softener. She said she hasn't seen a discounted bill yet, though a Flint spokeswoman said the city expects to start mailing statements that detail account credits at the end of the week.

Edwards' team studied homes with persistently high lead levels and discovered water use as low as 20 percent of typical usage. Lead levels from March were lower than when his team tested homes last August, he said, but still exceeded federal limits - which means residents should keep using faucet filters and bottled water.

At the advice of state environmental regulators, Flint went without corrosion controls in its water for 18 months, after the city switched to using the Flint River as a water source to save money while under state financial management. That allowed lead, which has been linked to developmental disabilities in children and other issues, to leach from old pipes.

The city has since reconnected to the Detroit area's water system, which uses corrosion chemicals on Lake Huron water, and added additional orthophosphates. But the damaged pipes need the coating. …

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