Flintnation: 33 US cities caught cheating on municipal water lead tests


#1

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#2

For many decades I have filtered the H2o in our home. Upgrade your filters often and spot check your system, it may be the most important mechanical in the home.


#3

Isn’t it funny that the British Guardian is one of the most active investigative journalism outlets in the US?

This creeps me out. Water is the most important food, no one in their right mind should even think about tampering with water qulity and lab reports.


#4

The American public sector is terminally ill with a parasitic infection of scum. Y’all need to take a good, long, hard look at how you got there.


#5

Know that phrase “Out of sight, out of mind”?

Infrastructure is really hard to keep up to date- both from a physical perspective (lots of it is buried, for example), as well as from a political perspective. Some new project that’ll generate tax revenue and be shiny and chrome? AWESOME. Spend the money.
But when you’re trying to sell digging up old pipes that still hold water (though they may be made of lead and leak like nobody’s business) just to replace them with NEW pipes the perform the exact same function (though, we’d hope, without the lead and leaking…) isn’t very sexy. People don’t want to spend money on things they perceive as “not broken” because they “still work.” Which is bullshit.
But it’s been the same with all aspects of our infrastructure: it gets viewed as a cost sink that should be minimized, instead of being see as the foundation that all else is built on. It’s super important, but because it’s profoundly (and by it’s very nature) un-sexy, there’s no money to spend.
Instead of waiting WAY past the service life of shit and then panicking at the massive bill to fix it, we need to get in the habit of always fixing that stuff- it’s just the cost of doing business. We currently do this whole feast & famine routine, and then, when the bill comes due, the politicians (and voters, for that matter) kick the can down the road for a bit- because surely it’ll last another year and “things are a bit tight right now.” PLOT TWIST THINGS ARE ALWAYS TIGHT. Has there ever been a plush town/city/state budget? No.
I dunno. It’s profoundly sad, because terrible bullshit is being done and I’m not sure there’s a fix, because it seems to be baked into human nature.


#6

Most small filters, like Britta filters, don’t filter any lead at all.

Lead filters are typically either whole-home filters where the water mains comes into the house (if the house has no lead in the pipes — though most homes built before 1989 do) or large under-the-sink filters.

(You may know this, I’m just clarifying.)


#7

Lead was used to pack the joints of cast iron pipe. Cast iron hasn’t been used in new water main installations since ductile iron was introduced in the early 1960’s. Ductile iron joints use gaskets to seal. The main source of lead contamination is not from the main, though, it’s the service lead and piping inside houses that are the usual culprits.

Speaking more to the topic, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that other states have governments as corrupt as Michigan does, but it sure is depressing. Also, I think the people who live in Howell would be rather surprised by the notion that they live in a Detroit suburb. At best, one should describe Howell as an exurb, being situated about halfway between Lansing and Detroit, and all.


#8

Thank you & good point, you need a whole home filtration system to get the bulk of contaminants.


#9

It seems like to me the EPA and water companies are looking for different sources of contamination. I don’t see the issue with pre-flushing or removing the aerator. Realistically that is the best way to rule out local contamination by the home’s plumbing. However that seems to be what the EPA is looking for, which as a water company isn’t exactly my responsibility. If I was that concerned about my house’s plumbing I’d either pay to replace it or move, because the only thing I can see the state doing is condemning your home. This is need to know information, but where the contamination is coming from is just as important.


#10

If the vast majority of houses in a certain area have high quantities of lead in their water, that’s of concern to the government, even if the lead is in the houses and not the mains. Most people rent and do not have the financial leverage to demand replacing their home’s pipe fittings.

Of course it’s good to know where the lead is coming from, but I think many/most water companies already report this. Where I am in Massachusetts, the water report states that there is 0 ppb lead in the mains, and 0-66 ppb in tested homes, with the 90th percentile being 4.49 ppb (15 ppb being the actionable level).

It’s true water companies don’t have complete responsibility over the pipes in people’s homes, although note that that nearly wasn’t the case — in 1991, the EPA legislated that it was the water company’s responsibility, but the industry sued, and in 2000 they settled on legislating that the companies had to provide partial replacements.

I think making it the water company’s responsibility is a good thing, but it’s a change from some water companies’ profits-first mentality. The same is true with power companies. In MA, power companies have a mandate to reduce overall power consumption, even if it means cutting into their own profits, and so they do things like offer incentives for smart meters and the like, which are good for the state but would be bad for a for-profit company. This is the bargin they make for essentially being allowed to be a state-wide monopoly.

This is more-so for water companies, which should always be state/municipally owned, and not for-profit.


#11

Anyone know of a cheap and easy (and hopefully reliable) way to get a home’s tap water tested?


#12

That’s what I was thinking… If the water company is supposed to be testing the water supply, then you want a sample that is representative of the water supply – not the house where the sample is being collected. If they are excluding homes based on problems with the home’s plumbing and sampling a neighboring house on the same supply branch instead, then I don’t see a problem. If they are using the excuse of “it’s the plumbing of the house” to exclude a whole problematic supply branch, then that is criminal.


#13

Agreed. And if the state wants home level testing they should offer a relatively easy and free way for it to happen. Drop off points, mailers, there are lots of easy options for people. I know when I lived in Apex, NC we had a fairly regular water survey/collection done on the homes. I think that was more due to the fact that we lived with in a certain distance to the Shearon Harris nuclear facility.

I don’t even see how that’d work. As it stands where I live in NC now your responsibility starts at the meter output. I spent a week digging up a section of copper supply line that a tree root had pinched and ruptured. Ended up costing me about $120 for someone to come out and replace that section of line (not that I couldn’t have done it far cheaper, but the misses wanted a “pro” to do it.) That week of back breaking digging saved me $1200 or so. And this was on a 100 year old home with a hodgepodge of copper, pex, and black iron pipe. I’m sure if I tested water from certain faucets it’d been high in lead, but I fail to see how that’s the water company’s issue. I bought the house and all the issues that came with it. With if I had polybutylene pipes? Would they be responsible for their replacement when they ruptured? Who is responsible if there is radon or mold?

Renting, now I can understand that, but owner ship conveys a whole different set of responsibilities. Like a lot of things in life I think the question always comes to how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? Mandatory testing for every house or place of public water consumption? Mandatory for homes with children? Rely on the water company to do their own testing? I think the best answer is usually somewhere in the middle.


#14

Has this become the next thing that a project like Safecast needs to work on? Instead (in addition) to GPS Radiation readings, add some citizen scientist ability to perform real-time lead level tracking (and upload/map the results?)
Is that even possible (I’ve no idea how one tests water lead levels…)?


#15

Here’s an old Lifehacker piece that still seems valid…
Afraid of Contamination? How to Test the Water in Your House
There are lots of home test kits that use color change, etc – not sure how accurate they are, but they should at least give a decent indication if there is a problem or not.
Any place where there are manufacturing facilities will likely have a couple of water testing labs – you can always check with them if you want EPA method testing and “certified” results (not cheap, but probably not horribly expensive).
When I was growing up in WI, I seem to recall that one could send samples to either a State lab or a UW extension office for basic analysis.


#16


#17

Baltimore simply builds its water mains close to the surface of the ground so that, come spring/summer, they’re all broken and need replacing. Besides, the leaks help the city find the pipes!

In truth, the city did recently mail out a flyer that was All About Baltimore’s Water, and it had, as one might imagine, nothing but high marks for the city’s water system and quality. Hmm…maybe Baltimore figures its cops will kill the citizens that might normally be killed with tainted water?


#18

Even really good microfilters won’t do it. Soluble lead just passes straight through. Britta filters aren’t even particularly good filters. They only remove organic DBPs. They don’t clean your water. Not even a little. They make it taste better, which is fine. I personally pay a little more for that cleaner taste, but be aware of what these are.

I happen to know that the water in our area is fine. We have had elevated DBP concentrations, but we’re probably doing pretty well.


#19

Yeah, that’s what I’ve gathered, and it’s why I’ve stopped going through the bother and expense of using them. I also wonder if they take out beneficial minerals and such.


#20

All public water suppliers are required to send out these yearly reports. Obviously, in Michigan (and a growing list of other states) the truthfulness of the report depends highly upon how ethical the staff at the supplier are.