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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

 

Bathing OK, but not a drop to drink

by Tom Sullivan


Flint River in Flint, Michigan. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Good news and bad news from Flint, Michigan. Well, maybe just better news:

Municipal water in Flint, Michigan, has improved significantly and is suitable for personal cleanliness uses, scientists said Tuesday in a bid to calm fears raised by actor Mark Ruffalo and others who have questioned the safety of the supply that flows into the city’s bathtubs and showers.

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech engineering professor whose testing last summer confirmed the lead contamination of Flint’s water, said sampling in recent months has found that lead levels are steadily declining, although they remain too high for people to drink from the tap without a filter. Also trending downward are bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease, while byproducts from disinfectant chemicals are at normal levels, he and other specialists said.

“We’re seeing some very, very encouraging results,” Edwards said at a news conference in Flint, adding that he was “pretty hopeful” the water would meet federal standards for lead content within the next six months.
But they still need to replace those pipes, Edwards said:
"It would be very, very nice to get the lead pipes out," he said, with hopes the city of Flint could be as a model for other areas. "It's not going to be easy. Everyone realizes that now. We're going to have to dig a lot of holes because we don't know where all the pipes are."

The issue may also be evolving from just the lead pipes as the culprit.

"It's the lead that's probably on galvanized iron, the lead on solder, the lead on brass that is probably at least half the problem," said Edwards. "The problem, corrosion control is not as effective on those materials."
And the bad news?
A new report obtained by the Detroit Free Press shows the average cost for replacing a service water line in the city through a pilot project that ended this month was $7,500. That's almost double the average cost of $4,000 for each replacement estimated by the state Department of Environmental Quality at the beginning of the water crisis last fall.

The true cost could even be higher. Not included in the calculations were average permit fees of $2,400 per site, according to the 115-page report produced by the engineering company Rowe Professional Services for the State of Michigan.
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder asked in an email why the city was charging so much for permits amidst the ongoing crisis. Good question. Flint remains under a state of emergency.

Congress, meanwhile, is dragging its feet despite proposals by Michigan U.S. Rep. John Conyers and others, according to the Free Press:
But Conyers' proposal is one of several coming in the wake of the Flint water crisis that have yet to clear Congress. One — which could provide more than $100 million in grants or loans to Flint to help replace water pipes, as well as fund other water projects and public health efforts across the country — is being pushed by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich. so far to no avail.
But defense spending? No problemo. War is like Jell-O. There's always room for Jell-O.