What We Can Learn from the Water Crisis in Flint

Rusty water pouring from a faucet in the city of Flint, In the spring of 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Not long after the changeover did it become clear that the water was corrosive, causing lead from pipes to leach into the water supply, endangering thousands of individuals due to the extremely high levels of heavy metal in the water. According to a class-action lawsuit, the water from Flint River wasn’t being treated with an anti-corrosive agent, which is a violation of federal law. Here’s what you can learn from the water crisis in Flint.

The Lead Levels in Flint’s Water

The contaminated water in Flint is brown, as a result of the iron leaching into the water from the city’s pipes. While concerning, the iron in the water isn’t nearly as frightening as the level of lead found in samples of Flint’s water supply. According to flintwaterstudy.org, “Flint’s 90%’ile lead value is 25 ppb [parts per billion] in our survey. This is over the EPA allowed level of 15 ppb that is applied to high risk homes. This is a serious concern indeed. Several samples exceeded 100 ppb, and one sample collected after 45 seconds of flushing exceeded 1000 ppb.”

How to Protect Your Family

Lead leaches into water when plumbing materials corrode. Water that is high in acidity or has a low mineral content more easily corrodes pipes and fixtures. Pipes in homes built after 1986 are less likely to have lead pipes, but it may do you some good to be cautious, as even “lead-free” plumbing may include traces of lead.

Testing If Your Pipes for Lead

One of the quickest ways to determine the quality of your home’s drinking water is to test it. While lead will not change the color of your water, iron will, which is a sign of corroding pipes. You may want to test your water if your home has lead pipes. An easy way to determine if your home has lead pipes is to scratch them. Lead is a dull metal that is gray, and can be easily scratched with a house key.

Testing the Water for Lead

Even if you don’t have lead pipes, consider testing your water if you have non-plastic plumbing that was installed before 1986. Lead testing kits are available for purchase at home improvement stores across the nation. You will need to send your samples out for analysis. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends sending samples to certified laboratories. To find a certified laboratory in your state, click here.

If your home tests positive for lead, always flush your pipes before drinking water, and only use cold water for cooking and drinking. You will also want to consider replacing lead plumbing fixtures in your home. If this is not an option, consider switching to bottled water, or using a water filter. To learn more about keeping your family and home safe, be sure to read the helpful information in our