Streamline - Summer 2016 - (Page 31)
BY SCOTT MCNALLY, SOURCE WATER TECHNICIAN
about Flint, Michigan have raised the issue of water quality to many citizens who would have
not normally considered it. Water quality in Flint, Michigan would most definitely be considered an outlier, so much so that
President Obama had to declare a state of emergency. It all started in April 2014 when city officials decided to stop purchasing
water from Detroit and use the Flint River instead. Residents of the city all know that the Flint River has a long history of pollution from urban runoff and industrial waste. Rhonda Kelso, who is 52 and has spent her life in Flint, referred to the decision
to use the Flint River, saying "I thought it was one of those Onion articles...We already knew the Flint River was toxic waste."
THE RECENT HEADLINES
The problem begins with the water
chemistry itself. The Flint River is
highly acidic, a large part from decades
of urban runoff containing road salts.
The river also has high levels of organic
material and bacteria that require added
chlorine. The unusually large amounts
of chlorine needed to treat the water,
combined with the dissolved road salts,
make the water leaving the plant highly
corrosive. This usually means that corrosion control chemicals would be added
to keep the water from corroding the distribution pipes. However, in Flint, they
did not add these chemicals and whether
that decision was entirely deliberate or
accidental is still unclear. One thing
that is known for sure: the acidic water
corroded iron and lead pipes, exposing
thousands of residents to high levels of
heavy metals and other toxins.
For LeeAnne Walters, a Flint resident
and mother, the problems began with
minor hair loss and skin rashes after her
and the kids would use the shower. The
problems increased when her 3-year-old
twins experienced extreme abdominal
pain and one of the twins has since
stopped growing. The maximum lead
concentration allowed in drinking water
by EPA standards is 15 parts per billion.
When the water from her tap became
brown and murky, she demanded city
officials act. A city employee was sent
to the Walters home where they ran the
tap and took a sample after a couple of
minutes. The results showed her water
had a lead concentration of 400 ppb.
However, upon further research, she
became suspicious that the city was
flushing the water lines before testing.
After she made contact with the EPA,
they sent a team to investigate. They
sampled the Walters tap water without
pre-flushing and found a staggering lead
concentration of 13,200 parts per billion.
Even water with half this concentration
of lead is considered hazardous waste
by the EPA.
Like many homes and buildings in
Flint, the Walters home is connected
to lead distribution lines. The corrosive water from the Flint River (some
sources say 19 times more corrosive than
Detroit's water) reacted with the pipes,
allowing the lead to leach into the water.
The fact that corrosion control chemicals
were not added could have been to political/budgetary issues, operator error, lack
of training or a deliberate action to save
the city money. Systems should be aware
of the presence of lead lines and treat the
This is not just an issue with Flint
as there are still lead distribution lines
across the country. If you live in an older
home, you may want to have a professional check your water lines. If you do
have lead lines, it is not the end of the
world. Try to limit hot showers and flush
the water taps every morning before
drinking or bathing.
The corrosive water
from the Flint River
(some sources say 19
times more corrosive
than Detroit's water)
reacted with the
the lead to leach
into the water.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2016
From the President: Life’s a Dance
From the Executive Director: Drum Roll Please...
VRWA’s 2016 Conference Highlights
VRWA Says “Until We Meet Again
System Efficiency and Production: Time for a Change???
Confessions of the Chronically Late
OSHA’S Recordkeeping Rule
Revenue and Reasonable Rates
When and How to Use Piping Restraints
Retaining Operators: Is it Really Just About $$?
What is WaterPAC?
Note from Myrica Keiser, Executive Director, VRWA
Throwing My Loop: The Secret to Creativity
VRWA Members Corner
Benefits for VRWA Members
Board of Directors
Index to Advertisers/Ad.com
Streamline - Summer 2016