Lead levels in Flint water still too high for govt-distributed filters to handle

© Brett Carlsen
Residents in Flint, Michigan have been advised to get their water tested after it was revealed that lead levels in some areas are so high that they overwhelm the water filters distributed to citizens.

Water filters that officials handed out to residents and businesses in Flint are capable of treating water with 150 parts per billion of lead. However, testing in 26 sites around the city found very high levels of lead, ranging from 153 parts per billion to the extremely dangerous 4,000 parts per billion, officials said Friday evening. More than 3,900 sites had levels of lead considered safe.

Officials tested water for lead before it passed through filters, and said that it does not mean that filters aren’t working.

"We still have confidence in the filters," said Mark Durno of the EPA. "If you have not had your water tested, get it tested now."

The EPA sets the safe limit for lead in water at 15 parts per billion. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Rick Snyder recommended that residents take immediate action to minimize exposure to lead. Test results usually take about three days, officials said.

“It is essential that all Flint residents have the water in their homes tested as soon as possible,” Snyder, a Republican, said in a Friday statement. “Please make it a priority for your family and encourage your friends and neighbors to obtain testing kits as well. The kits are available free of charge at the water resource sites within Flint fire stations.”

Federal officials said that pregnant women and children under six should only drink bottled water.

“Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead,” the EPA warned on its site.

Lead originally entered Flint’s water supply after the city stopped getting water from Detroit and instead took it from the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure in 2014. Some children in the city tested positive for having lead in their blood, which has been linked to developmental problems, lower IQ and learning disabilities.

Even though Flint reverted back to Detroit’s water system after it became clear that the local supply was highly dangerous, lead levels remains elevated because the city’s pipes are still coated with the toxic elements.

Water testing kits are being distributed at Flint fire stations and City Hall. Gov. Snyder said in a Friday night release that all Flint residents should have the water in their homes tested quickly.

“Please make it a priority for your family and encourage your friends and neighbors to obtain testing kits as well,” his statement said. “The kits are available free of charge at the water resource sites within Flint fire stations.”

The Republican governor has apologized to the people of Flint and accepted responsibility for the crisis. He recently signed a new state aid package of $28 million into law, which aims to pay for bottled water, faucet filters, testing kits and medical treatment for the city.

"It's time to stand up and recognize that things could have been done differently," Snyder said before signing the aid legislation. "Mistakes were made ... We're going to solve them."

On Thursday, US Senate Democrats proposed a $400 million federal aid measure to help replace Flint’s corroded lead pipes. Senate Republicans, however, were not ready to commit to backing the package without any budget cuts to offset the cost.