Here’s a fact no one seems to be talking about: As of July 2018, Flint’s water has now been testing below action levels of the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for two years. Four consecutive six-month monitoring periods and many other independent tests have shown that Flint’s water is testing at levels better than many cities across the country.
Despite all of the vast improvements in Flint’s water quality, many people seem to think the city’s water is still poisoned. Even (arguably) the world’s most famous entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk has been called upon to help “fix Flint’s water crisis“. Musk pledged to fund the installation of water filters in any home in Flint that has contaminated water above “FDA levels” (we assume Musk meant EPA levels, as they set these limits).
Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
But does Flint’s water even need to be “fixed” by Musk at this point?
Here are the facts:
- All Flint residents have already had access to free faucet water filters, filtered dispensers, and home water testing kits for quite a while now (get more info here). They will continue to be available until water service line replacement in Flint is totally finished (estimated timeline is 2020).
- In four consecutive six-month periods, starting in July 2016, Flint’s water has been testing below federal action levels for lead and copper (note: The most recent testing period ended in June, and while final results haven’t been released yet, the April 2018 update showed the water was testing at 4 parts per billion so it’s safe to say this six-month period is well under federal action levels of 15 ppb).
- The most recent test results show that Flint’s water is now testing at 4 parts per billion (ppb – lead in water is measured in parts per billion), way below the federal requirement of 15 ppb. At its worse in 2015, the highest recorded reading of lead levels in a sample of Flint water was over 13,000 ppb — more than 866 times the limit.
- About $450 million ($350 million from the state, $100 million from the federal government) has been committed to helping solve the Flint water crisis, which has gone toward ensuring residents have access to clean water in the short term (via free bottled water delivery for a while and free home water filters) and steadily overhauling the city’s water delivery infrastructure by replacing 18,000 lead or galvanized service lines by 2020.
- As of the end of 2017, over 6,200 Flint water service lines have been replaced, and officials believe they’ll reach their goal of replacing 18,000 by 2020.
- 99.4% of Flint homes with new water lines show safe lead levels.
“For 18 months, data has shown that Flint’s water quality is restored and testing is the same or better than many cities across the state and country,” Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said in an April news release.
While Flint’s water isn’t perfect and there’s still another 18 months or so to go with replacing service lines, the fact is it has improved drastically and most houses now have safe water (although some do need more education in maintaining and changing their filters). The bigger problem is that several places all across the country, from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee and 71 water systems in Michigan alone, have higher lead levels than Flint, and for the most part, they aren’t receiving any attention.
For his part, Musk later acknowledged that most houses in Flint now have safe water, as his stance on the situation has continued to evolve. It’s also important to point out that he’s not responsible for the sensationalized media headlines painting him as a hero coming in to “fix Flint’s water crisis”. However, Musk has pointed out that many people don’t trust the government’s test results nor their claims that water quality has been restored.
You’re right on both counts. Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results. Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
While many Flint residents are glad to have more attention on their water issues to hold the government accountable to seeing through its duty to fix the problem, the reality is the situation in the city is largely under control, and in fact, Flint’s water situation is now far better than in several other places across the state of Michigan and the entire US.