Claims by state and local officials that Flint’s municipal water is safe to drink are being put to the test in a precedent-setting independent study.
So far, those claims are emphatically failing to pass muster.
Researchers from Virginia Tech – working with a group of Flint residents and the ACLU of Michigan – are conducting an extensive analysis of lead and copper levels in water flowing into the homes of Flint’s residents.
Initial findings show the problem is roughly twice as bad as the city’s tests indicate.
What’s been dubbed the Flint Citizen Science Study is still under way, but the early findings have been so disturbing that the Virginia Tech team is posting results on the web in order to alert residents about how extensive the problem may be.
“I think it would have been unethical to not release this information right away,” said VT professor Marc Edwards, who is leading the project.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the city would be out of compliance if 10 percent of homes tested are above the action level of 15 parts per billion lead. The city says its latest sampling, conducted during the first six months of this year, shows that Flint’s water is in compliance with federal regulations, according to documents obtained by the ACLU of Michigan.
That claim is based on tests conducted at 69 homes.
The VT study is looking at nearly four times as many homes. Of the 120 samples analyzed so far, 20 percent have been over the federal action level – twice what it would take for the city to be out of compliance.