Researchers say that lead levels in the drinking water supply of Flint, Michigan, continue to drop, but say residents should still filter their water.
The researchers from Virginia Tech said Friday that they found no detectable levels of lead in 57 percent of homes during the latest round of tests in the city.
Scientist Marc Edwards, who first revealed Flint’s high lead levels in 2015, said, “We’re now approaching the end of the public health crisis.”
However, he said residents would likely need to use filters on kitchen faucets until the city is able to replace all the old lead pipes that bring water into homes.
“It’s very likely folks will never be told the water is safe as long as those lead pipes are there,” Edwards said during a news conference at Virginia Tech.
Flint continues to distribute water filters and bottled water free to all its citizens.
Lead on par with other cities
Edwards said the current lead levels in Flint are not worse than many other older cities in the country.
“But a high bar has been set in terms of a standard before people are told to drink the water without filters,” he said.
Edwards said he hopes other cities will adopt recommendations that its residents not drink municipal water as long as there are lead water lines in the city.
U.S. federal health officials found that young children in Flint had significantly higher levels of dangerous lead in their blood after the city switched its water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure.
How it happened
The city switched its water supply in 2014 without ensuring that water from the Flint River had been treated with anti-corrosive agents, as required by law. It corroded the city’s old water mains, turning drinking water brown because of iron contamination, and also leached lead from smaller pipes that carried water into homes.
In all, nearly 100,000 people were affected by the contaminated water. Lead in water supplies can cause profound and permanent health problems, particularly in children whose brains and nervous systems are still developing.