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State DEQ to answer questions about Flint's water woes

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality plans to respond Monday to a demand for answers about Flint’s water woes.

Last week, State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, and state Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, sent a letter to DEQ director Dan Wyant demanding answers to a list of questions about the safety and treatment of Flint’s drinking water.

Ananich says the public needs answers to growing concerns about the quality of the city’s tap water.

“Has there been permanent damage done because of the corrosiveness of the Flint River to the pipes?" asks Ananich. “And if that’s the case, what do we need to do to make sure that there’s safe drinking water for citizens?”

Ananich says he is among those Flint residents who have been using bottled water since concerns about the city’s tap water have grown. 

A Virginia Tech professor who claims testing shows "serious" lead levels in the city’s tap water will appear at a town hall meeting in Flint this week.

Marc Edwards’ team of researchers at Virginia Tech University have tested hundreds of samples of water collected in Flint. A substantial number of those samples turned up high levels of lead. In those cases, Edwards’ team has advised home owners to stop drinking their tap water, especially in families with young children and pregnant women.

Edwards blames the high lead levels on the characteristics of the water from the Flint River.

Their study found that water drawn from the Flint River is more corrosive than water from Detroit (where Flint used to get its water).

From the study:

On average, Detroit water is 19 times (or 19X) less corrosive than the Flint River water currently in use. That is, the current Flint River water leaches 19X more lead to the water than Detroit water. This explains why the lead in Flint’s water in our survey, is so high, even when it was low before when Detroit water was being used.

The Flint River water, Edwards says, is leaching more lead from old lead pipes in homes and pipes that have lead solder in them.

City officials maintain Flint’s tap water meets federal and state standards.  

The city prefers to keep getting its water from the Flint River until a new pipeline can bring water from Lake Huron.  But the KWA pipeline, as it's known, is not expected to be completed until next year. 

The city’s critics say they want Flint to return to getting its water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, but city leaders say that’s not financially doable.  

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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