A new University of Michigan study reconfirms the generally accepted understanding that the Flint Water Crisis stemmed from untreated pipes that allowed lead to leach into the water supply after the city’s water source was changed.
The study, “Forensic Estimates of Lead Release from Lead Service Lines during the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan,” documents a “Swiss cheese pattern” inside 10 lead services line samples collected from around Flint, Michigan, indicating heavy lead corrosion, according to the University of Michigan News.
Although the study may seem like old news to many, it’s actually the first direct evidence that the government’s failure to properly treat the pipes is the reason why the city’s residents were sickened by tap water containing toxic levels of lead.
The study also disproves a regulator’s claim that the water crisis would have happened even if the proper corrosion-control chemicals had been used to treat the pipes after the city sourced its water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which has significantly higher corrosive properties.
According to University of Michigan researchers, the average water line released 18 grams of lead into the average home during the 17 months that the Flint River water ran through the city’s untreated pipes. That amounts to at least double the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion, said lead study researcher Terese Olson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan.
According to Professor Olson, some of the lead was consumed, some washed down the drain, and some might be deposited in the plumbing systems of the affected homes, meaning “there is a chance that some of that lead is a potential health risk even after the lead service line is removed.”