Flint water pipes could be fixed by May, unknown when residents can drink water

by Gary Ridley, originally published on March 25, 2016


FLINT, MI – Environmental regulators estimate lead should stop leaching from the city’s damaged pipes by May 1, but there is still no word on when all Flint residents will be able to safely drink the water without filters.

The May 1 date was released in a Friday, March 25, letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency approving the state’s request to extend a presidential emergency declaration for Flint and Genesee County.

The extension will last until Aug. 14.

The letter, sent from FEMA Associate Administrator Elizabeth Zimmerman, said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency officials determined the rescaling of the city’s water pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the water supply is estimated to be completed by May 1.

However, the letter also states that health officials recommend residents only drink filtered or bottled water until the water is deemed safe for human consumption without having to use a filter.

The letter state that could take upward of three months, but Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, which announced the extension, said the decision to issue an all-clear on the city’s water will not be based on a calendar date.

The extension authorizes federal supplies of bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges and test kits for another four months.

“With this federal assistance, much-needed resources will continue to be available to Flint residents while this crisis exists,” Snyder said in a statement announcing the extension. “We are working diligently with local, state and federal partners to ensure the people of Flint have access to quality drinking water at their homes as soon as possible.”

An emergency was declared Jan. 16 by President Barack Obama after elevated blood lead levels were discovered in some Flint children after the city changed its water source from Lake Huron water purchased from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014, a decision made while the city was being run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

State regulators didn’t require the river water be treated to make it less corrosive, causing lead from plumbing and pipes to leach into the city’s water supply.

Even though the city reconnected to the Detroit water system in October, local and state officials have warned pregnant women and young children against using the water unless it has been tested because lead levels continue to exceed what can be handled by a filter.

Obama’s initial declaration had a time limit of 90 days, but State Police Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security, requested the extension on March 14.

The FEMA letter stated no further extensions would be granted.

Officials have been hesitant on placing a timeline on when they believe the city’s water will be considered safe.

Since Jan. 9, the state says it has provided more than 543,500 cases of water, 110,500 water filters and 42,800 water testing kits in response to the water crisis.

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