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New tests raise questions about treating Flint's "corrosive" river water

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

New tests show that possible changes to how Flint treats its drinking water may not solve a problem that could be creating "serious" lead levels in people's tap water.

Virginia Tech University researchers say a big part of the problem with Flint’s tap water is the corrosiveness of Flint River water.

They claim it’s 19 times more corrosive to lead solder used in pipes than the Detroit water it replaced.     

There is a chemical commonly added to city water systems to lessen corrosiveness.  But the researchers say, even after adding the chemical orthophosphate, Flint’s water would still be 16 times more corrosive than Detroit’s.

Virginia Tech researchers have been testing samples collected from hundreds of Flint homes. They have found "serious" levels of lead in almost one in five.  The researchers have urged some homeowners to stop drinking their tap water entirely. 

They say their test results show the city should return to getting its drinking water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Flint shut off its water pipeline to Detroit last year. The Flint River is a temporary water source until a new pipeline from Lake Huron is completed sometime next year.

City and state officials have taken issue with the Virginia Tech findings. They insist their testing has not shown similar results. 

Virginia Tech researchers will be back in Flint next week. They plan on attending a town hall meeting to discuss their findings.    

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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