Flint residents hear water research from Virginia Tech, ask for outside investigation into city

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FLINT (WJRT) - (09/15/15) - Tuesday night, Virginia Tech scientists met with Flint residents to go over their findings on the city's water system.

Over the course of several months, they tested 300 homes and said 70 of them had high levels of lead.

"It's even much more serious than what I even knew and all these people even knew," said Flint resident Eldreama Elerson. "So it's important that we do something about it."

The researchers estimate thousands more to have levels too high based on standards set by the World Health Organization. They said water from the Flint River is 20 times more corrosive than water from Detroit.

"We've been lied to, folks," said Tony Palladeno Jr., a Flint resident. "I feel vindicated today. I hope everybody else does. We've been told we're crazy. It's been an ongoing situation."

Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech, said water from the Flint River is eroding the iron and lead pipes that feed water into homes.

"Over about the last 15 months, this water's been eating the pipe system up and essentially aged it the equivalent of 12 years," Edwards said.

The group from Virginia Tech said people should not be drinking or using Flint water to cook with unless it's run through a certified lead filter or pipes are flushed for five minutes.

Edwards said going back to the Detroit water system would be the best option.

During the meeting, the Coalition For Clean Water and an investigative journalist with the ACLU of Michigan called for an independent investigation of City Hall. They want an outside look at the city's water testing practices and decision-making.

"Based on the information that we have uncovered so far and the apparent irregularities and improprieties, we certainly believe an outside, independent investigation is warranted into exactly how the city was able to claim to be in compliance with federal lead and copper rule regulations," said Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter with the ACLU of Michigan.

Meanwhile, the city maintains the water is meeting all state and federal regulations and said testing is done according to approved procedures.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is asking Gov. Rick Snyder for $30 million to help upgrade the city's water system and replace lead service pipes. Included in that request is $10 million to replace lead service lines and plumbing that can leach lead into drinking water.

Elerson said she will fight to see change.

"We don't have a choice. We have to do it," Elerson said. " We get louder about it (and) we let them know that there is a problem with our water."

The experts from Virginia Tech said they've been granted a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue studying Flint's water system.

Palladeno also wants a federal investigation into Flint's water matters. He said it's time for local, state and federal leaders to wake up.

"Your public is screaming for help," Palladeno said. "People heard what they needed to hear. This is no lie, and people are getting hurt."

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