Independent water study shows high levels of lead in Flint water, city says water meets all standards

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FLINT (WJRT) - (09/03/15) - Water worries continue to mount in Flint.

Independent researchers from Virginia Tech University say there are high levels of lead in Flint's water.

Those researchers are calling the levels "unsafe" for drinking.

"We were shocked that a modern treatment water system would be allowed to send that water into the pipe network," said Virginia Tech University professor Marc Edwards.

His research started this summer with a phone call from a worried mother in Flint.

She told Edwards her children tested high for lead in their blood.

"We then started looking at the situation in more detail and we realized that any competent scientist could of figured out that this is a serious problem and that Flint residents are not being protected," Edwards said.

His research team collected hundreds of water samples.

Using parts per billion (ppb) as a measurement, the EPA says drinking water can't have more than 15 ppb of lead.

Edwards said out of 120 water samples tested in Flint, 20 percent exceeded the legal amount.

One sample tested at 158 ppb.

"We started analyzing those results and they were worse than we expected," Edwards said.

Edwards blames the source, the Flint River, saying the water corrodes both lead and iron pipes.

On Thursday, city of Flint officials said they are meeting all standards.

"We are pleased to be able to report today that the official tests show that the city is now compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act," said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling.

Edwards disagrees. He recommends that children under 6 and women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant avoid drinking the water in Flint.

"The levels we are seeing are concerning for anybody, but those are the most susceptible," Edwards said.

According to Edwards, the only fix is to switch back to the Detroit water system until the KWA pipeline comes on line next spring. That system will bring water from Lake Huron to Genesee County.

Flint officials stand by their testing for lead and other elements.

"We offer testing to people in Flint and we encourage them to use that," said Howard Croft, the director of Public Works.

The Virginia Tech University researchers did agree with the city of Flint on one point regarding the chlorine by-product TTHM. Those levels did not comply with state and federal standards last year.

Edwards' research showed that TTHM is at a safe level in Flint water.

Edwards says his team is planning another trip to Mid-Michigan very soon.

For more information on their findings, click on the link in the 'Related Links' section of this story.

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