Groups call for EPA action over lead-contaminated drinking water

Oct. 2, 2015

A study found the number of children with dangerously elevated blood lead levels has doubled since the city switched its drinking water source.

CHICAGO — Oct. 1, 2015 — Local citizens and national groups are calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take immediate action addressing drinking water contaminate with lead in Flint, Michigan, according to a press release.

The Coalition for Clean Water, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) joined a petition to convince the EPA to respond, noted the release. The Safe Drinking Water Act allows the agency to step in when "imminent and substantial endangerment to human health" is present.

The groups claim Flint’s water system is not up to par, stated the release. They want the EPA to require the city and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reconnect the system with water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The petition also asks for residents to receive a free, alternative source of safe drinking water, among other requests.

"Neither the city of Flint nor the state of Michigan is doing enough to fix the problem of lead in our drinking water. As evidenced by the ongoing poisoning of the children of Flint, it’s time for the EPA to take immediate action to provide us with a safe water source," said LeeAnne Walters, a member of Water You Fighting For, an organization petitioning the EPA, in the release. "The city and state need to test for lead and copper as intended by the federal lead and copper rule."

The release reported that lead service lines have carried highly corrosive water for more than a year. An increase in children with dangerously elevated blood lead levels was observed in a medical study, with one study finding that number has doubled since the city changed its drinking water source from the Detroit system.

"Americans rightly believe that the water coming out of their taps should be safe, not exquisitely toxic. For more than a year, lead-contaminated drinking water has been flowing through Flint’s pipes, faucets, and fountains. If the City and State will not address the issue, the EPA should step in to protect kids’ health immediately," said Henry Henderson, midwest director for the NRDC, in the release.

Residents are advised to take the following steps:

  • Flush faucets by running water for a minimum of five minutes prior to consumption.
  • Use only cold water from taps for drinking and cooking, as warm or hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead.
  • Install and use water filters that are certified to remove lead by NSF International (labeled as meeting "NSF Standard 53" for lead removal), and regularly change the filter cartridges.
  • Use only filtered or bottled water to prepare baby formula and food. Children, pregnant or nursing women should also use filtered or bottled water for drinking and cooking.

In addition, residents should take the following additional steps when possible:

  • Remove and clean individual faucet aerators, as lead particles and sediment can collect in the aerator screen located at the faucets.
  • Contact a licensed plumber to replace any household plumbing that may contain lead.
  • Flush cold water taps after installing any new household pipes or fixtures.

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