It has been more than three years since the residents of Flint, Mich., have had clean water. The city had to jump through hoops to get the $100 million in federal aid promised to it, and now residents are being told to run the water in their faucets longer to cut down on bacteria growth in the state-supplied water filters that are supposed to protect them from the lead-contaminated water.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law the $100 million in federal aid this week, according to the Associated Press, and that, along with the $20 million state match, will be used to replace the corroded pipes that leached, update aging water mains and infrastructure, replace water meters and conduct an engineering study.
While the federal money is good news in a lot of ways, the changes it brings with it are a ways off. In the meantime, the residents still don’t have clean, potable water, and the water filters and cartridges that have been distributed in the city since October 2015 have been found to be a breeding ground for bacteria, which provides an additional worry for residents.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University studied the filters in Flint homes from July until November 2016 and again in March, according to MLive, and while the activated-carbon-block filters provided by the state remove metals such as lead, studies have shown that they also support the growth of bacteria in water.
The researchers recommend that residents bypass the faucet filters and run water until the temperature cools, then run filtered water for 15 seconds before collecting any for use.
“People are worried about bacteria [and] we’re trying to give them tools that are practical” to reduce it, Nancy Love, University of Michigan professor of civil and environmental engineering, who led the filter research, said. “Should you be concerned, here’s an approach [that limits exposure].”
Love said that researchers are still working to find out whether any harmful bacteria are present in the filters used in Flint, but none of the bacteria has been linked to any illnesses.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement that the EPA continues to recommend that Flint residents continue to use filtered or bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth while lead- and galvanized-service-line replacement continues.
“Flint residents are advised to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for optimal filter use and care,” the EPA statement says. “Manufacturers recommend running cold water through the filter for at least 5 seconds prior to each use.
“EPA is aware of recent studies which investigate whether bacteria is present in point-of-use water filters [and which recommend] flushing for 15 seconds and will review this research,” the statement says. “EPA sees no harm in flushing the water for more than 5 seconds. In addition, running cold water throughout the house for a few minutes every day improves orthophosphate and chlorine distribution, disinfection and overall water quality in the system.”
So bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth, but what about bathing?
I guess they will just have to wait until the pipes are replaced before they can effectively wash their bodies.