In case you haven’t seen the news or read a newspaper in a while, the city of Flint is, and has been, in crisis mode. When the city switched its drinking water supply, they failed to use corrosion control chemicals as part of the water treatment process. The water from the new source contained corrosive agents, and as a result, lead started to leach out from the pipes and into the drinking water. Many residents of Flint were diagnosed with lead poisoning and experienced all of its terrible side effects.
As with any problem, becoming aware of the problem doesn’t mean you have a clear-cut solution. There are a few options to fix the water contamination problem, none of which are easy.
- Replacing the lead service lines
Flint’s pipes are unsuitable for transporting water because the damage has already been done; the corrosion has already occurred, and any water that goes through corroded lead service lines will contain some level of lead. In response to this, Flint is already in the process of replacing lead service lines.
The first step in replacing impacted lines is finding them, and that was no easy task. The records were both disorganized and hand-written, making it difficult to determine which pipes needed to be replaced.
Another issue with the replacement of pipes is the cost. In May, a pipe replacement project was done to figure out if estimates of the total project (replacing all of the lead pipes in Flint) were correct. Well, they weren’t. The project cost almost twice as much as they had anticipated. Considering that the original estimated cost was millions and millions of dollars, the new estimated cost must be astronomical.
Finally, timing is an issue. It was estimated in March that the replacement of all lead service lines in the city would take one year. But, that may be an unrealistic deadline. In light of the high cost of the first pipe replacement project, the city has had to re-open the bidding for the project and is looking for new contractors that can complete the project for less money.
Although replacing the lead service lines is a solution to the problem, it’s a costly one that could take years. And when it comes to having safe drinking water, time is of the essence.
- Switching Water Sources
Switching water sources seems like a logical solution to Flint’s problem., but it’s not as cut and dry as it seems. The lead is already leaching out of the pipes, and without being treated or replaced, the pipes cannot be used to transport water, even if the water comes from a new source.
Of course, Flint has already switched back to Detroit water, but that’s not the long-term goal nor is it a long-term solution.
Flint is working with the Karegnondi Water Authority to get a pipeline from Lake Huron to Flint residents. The pipeline is slated for completion before the end of July, but the city of Flint first needs to prove to the EPA that they can handle switching to the new water source before they can do so. It’s a solution to the water problem but depends on other solutions, like the replacement of lead service lines.
- Take control of your own water
You don’t have to rely solely on other people to provide clean drinking water to your home. You can take control of your water supply by using a home filtration system. The EPA, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested filtered water in Flint and determined that it is safe to drink. EPA science advisor Tom Burke states,
“In most cases, the levels of lead coming through the filters are too low even to be detected.”
There are plenty of home filtration systems to choose from. When it comes to removing heavy metals (and yes, lead is a heavy metal), an activated carbon filter is the best option. These types of filters are relatively common; they usually come in the form of a pitcher. As you pour the water into the pitcher, the water goes through a carbon filter and the carbon binds to the metals, leaving your water metal-free. In some cases, an activated carbon filter can be installed under your sink. Under the sink filters catch all of the harmful particles as they come through your pipes, giving you safe water right from your tap.
There is no easy or affordable solution to Flint’s water problems. But, on an individual level, water filters are a great fix. No matter where you live, using a home filtration system can keep your water safe from hazardous elements.