A week after the city of Flint, Michigan declared a public health emergency over the elevated levels of lead found in its water supply, officials are distributing free water filters to families in the area, along with bottled water.
Just a day after Gov. Rick Snyder insisted that the consequences of drinking Flint’s water were not “fully understood,” county commissioners issued a recommendation for citizens not to drink the water before it was filtered.
Last year, Flint switched from Detroit’s water system in an effort to cut costs, and began sourcing water from the Flint River instead. The city did so without planning any corrosion control, which would prevent lead from leaching from old pipes and entering into tap water.
“What we discovered to our shock was that they switched to a new water source that was obviously very corrosive, meaning it would eat up the lead pipe and iron pipe and essentially put the metals into the water, without controlling the corrosion,” Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech University told All Things Considered. “And this is a horrible idea in a city full of lead plumbing and lead pipe like Flint.”
In late September, a group of doctors also called a news conference to report that blood samples from local children were showing significantly high lead levels, which effectively indicated lead poisoning. In two zip codes, the percentage of children with above-average lead levels tripled.
“Our children are a top priority given the effects lead can have on their development,” Mayor Dayne Walling said in a statement. “Any bottled water donations we receive will be used for our children and other high risk groups, such as our seniors.”