The situation in Flint Michigan has been steadily deteriorating and there’s still some time before experts predict an end in sight. It’s reached the point where celebrities such as Cher and Pearl Jam have donated water or money for the affected towns and people living in them.
But what exactly happened?
In April 2014, it was decided by a Flint city manager that the city’s water supply would switch from the Detroit water system to the Flint River instead – a move designed to save money.
However, the residents of Flint started to notice immediate problems with their water supplies. The water coming from taps was brown and when people used it to shower or take a bath, they were breaking out in rashes.
The Flint River was known for having a large amount of factory runoff in it – in fact, it’s decade’s worth. Although Flint’s water system still utilises the same lead pipes as the rest of Michigan, the pipes were never treated with the orthophosphate which is a chemical used to prevent any toxic lead escaping into the water.
Initially, it was thought that the problems were just cosmetic, however after in-depth testing was conducted it was revealed that the water actually housed dangerous levels of lead. What followed was a public health crisis and a federal state of emergency being declared. Perhaps one of the most shocking things to come from the situation, was an alarmingly high level of lead found in a children’s blood supply. If a child were to get lead poisoning, it could be extremely damaging and result in irreversible brain damage.
However, as it took a year for the complaints to be acknowledged by the government, no action was taken until October 2015 when the water supply was switched back to the Detroit water supply. However, when this occurred, the water was too contaminated to use and now people in the Flint area are relying on aid for clean water from celebrities, donations, and the National Guard.
It’s incredibly important for water companies to monitor and correctly treat water. In this case these problems have been caused by pumping acidic water from the river, rather than the previously used reservoirs and as a result, the piping systems have become so damaged that Flint residents still can’t enjoy their tap water.
There are plenty of ways in which water instruments can help to ensure water supplies meet the correct standards. Early stage testing can be utilised by a water instrument like Partech’s uMac SMART meter, or by correctly monitoring drinking water plant intakes using instruments like the ColTec or TurbiTech LR. These instruments are designed to give early indications of a problem such as this. However, perhaps another pause for thought is the lack of investment in water utilities. Be sure to check back with us next month and see our next blog on the Flint Michigan Water Crisis.