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Flint offers to test residents' tap water, in their homes

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Anybody worried about the water coming out of their taps in Flint can get a city employee to come test their water personally – on the city’s dime.

That’s according to about a dozen or so letters the city says it is sending out to people who’ve complained about their water quality in city meetings or in letters to city hall.

“A lot of this is from an educational standpoint, so that we can know exactly what may or may not be occurring, and what the cause may or may not be,” says Howard Croft, Flint’s Public Works director.

Residents have reported discolored, chlorinated, and foul smelling and tasting water since the city switched from Detroit’s water system, to temporarily using the Flint River as its source as it transitions to a new water system.

This past summer the city issued a “boil water” notice for several days after finding elevated levels of bacteria.

And in December, the city was cited for violations after the state found high levels of Trihalomethanes, a byproduct of chlorination that can cause serious health issues for the very sick, very old, or very young if it’s consumed over many years.

But Croft says their most recent tests show the water is safe.

“Right now, all of the tests that we have … continue to show that we’re well within all of the EPA guidelines, where we should be.”

Which makes Croft believe that “there are other things going on” when people complain about their tap water, like water hardness, which he says can be bad for eczema.

As for water discoloration, Croft suggests that could be due to turning on water after pipes have been dormant for a long time and corroded.

Or possibly, it’s because the city has been doing a lot of repairs on its 600 miles of water main lines, says Croft.  

“And really, that’s one of the goals of the letter, is to reach people and break apart the different items that occur, so it’s not so all mixed up together.

“So there’s an educational component as well, for a person not just to be at a podium for three minutes" Croft says, in reference to community meetings where residents have complained, "but to talk to a tech one on one.” 

City officials decided that Detroit’s water system was too expensive, and that the Karengnondi Water Authority, which is currently being built and will pipe water from Lake Huron, would be better for the city in the long run. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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