Is there a solution to the Flint, MI water crisis?

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Posted on January 20, 2016

shutterstock_197941322 (2)The story of the water woes for Flint, Michigan, has reached a head. President Obama declared a state of emergency and FEMA stepped in to provide aid and assistance to residents who could not rely on their municipal water supply. This crisis has left many wondering how this could have happened, and how can it all be resolved.

How did this happen? It was a perfect storm that created this crisis. The city’s water treatment was struggling on many fronts:

  • Aged infrastructure. A central issue is that the city’s water pipes date back to the days when lead was a very common construction material.
  • Economic hardships. With the decline and exodus of the auto industry, Flint’s population base declined, leaving fewer people to pay for the city’s water, meaning cuts had to be made.
  • Switching the water supply. The city made the decision to temporarily draw the water supply from the Flint River instead of sourcing water from Detroit, which is drawn from Lake Huron. This was a critical factor, as the Flint River water is more “aggressive” and caused lead to leach from the pipes that delivers the water to residents’ homes. Unfortunately, this was not addressed at the treatment plant, and although the city has since switched back to the Lake Huron supply, the damage has been done.

How can it all be resolved? Certainly, in the near term and possibly beyond, it will be necessary for the residents of Flint to assume responsibility for their own drinking water.  If you, likewise, have concerns about your public water supply, learn more about how you can address it.  

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The options possible are to:

  • Switch to a private water source. While this may apply to only a few, if there is an alternative water source, like a previously disconnected well, then resorting to this supply could be an option. As always, it’s prudent to test the water to ensure the quality and safety of the water before drinking from it.
  • Final barrier treatment. This is the solution being offered by FEMA. Again, testing the water in the home and consulting with a local water treatment professional for a complete solution are the keys. Knowing the levels of lead and any other contaminants will determine the type and size of equipment required. Potential water treatment solutions for lead include adsorption by specialized carbon filters or reverse osmosis.
  • Bottled water.