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Meeting this week in Chicago likely to have big impact on Flint water crisis

Bottled Water
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

A group of doctors, regulators and outside experts is meeting behind closed doors in Chicago Tuesday to determine if Flint’s water technically meets federal standards again. The meeting at EPA’s regional headquarters could be the start of a shift; from a public health emergency to a longer term response.

Water samples have improved for several months. But there are still some homes with spikes in lead levels that are potentially dangerous without a water filter.

Some experts now believe any homes with a lead water service line are at risk.

But it could remain especially risky in Flint, because a frenzy of work crews have been digging up and replacing old water service lines. That work can stir things up, causing temporary spikes in lead levels.

Representatives from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. EPA, the CDC, Michigan’s top public health official and Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards plan to be there.

“Just because we say, perhaps in January, that all of our results for the monitoring period are within the compliance values doesn’t mean we still wouldn’t … recommend filter,” said Bryce Feighner, who now heads the drinking water division at MDEQ.

“I can say the data has shown continued improvement in the last six months. So we’re expecting good results but we’ll let the data speak for itself,” he said.

But it could be tough to convince Flint residents their water is safe.

The data summit on Tuesday in Chicago is not open to reporters or the public.

A town hall meeting to review the findings is set for Wednesday night at 6 pm.

An invitation obtained by Michigan Radio last week says the town hall would be by invitation only, but Flint spokeswoman Kristin Moore says the town hall is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. She says the meeting will be live online for those who cannot make it to the UM-Flint Northbank Center.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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