The Flint Water Crisis
Water contamination issues in Flint, Michigan began in 2014 when the state, in an effort to save money, switched its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to water from the notoriously filthy Flint River.
To be considered drinkable, Flint River water required treatment with an anti-corrosion agent. When state officials failed to spend the $100 per day required to cover the cost of treatment, the corrosive water began eating away at the city’s lead and iron pipes, leaching toxins into its citizens' tap water.
The health impact of lead exposure is long-lasting and often permanent. Children are especially susceptible to brain damage, cognitive and behavioral issues, and developmental delays. High levels of iron in the Flint River also allowed certain bacteria to thrive--the most likely cause of a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease (a severe form of pneumonia) causing 12 deaths since 2014.
Eventually, the Flint, Michigan water supply was reconnected to Lake Huron, but not before city pipes suffered irreparable damage. $100 per day could have prevented nearly all of Flint’s subsequent water problems and an estimated $55 million in pipe removal. In 2016, researchers continued to find lead in Flint’s tap water and advised homeowners to use filtration systems to remove lead and other contaminants.
Water Troubles Far From Over
In July of 2018, Michigan water troubles made headlines once again. A new water crisis involving synthetic chemicals used in surface protection products for carpet, clothing, coating for cardboard packaging and in fire-fighting foams was found in dangerously high levels in the municipal water system in Kalamazoo County.
These chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, (PFASs) are linked to a variety of adverse health effects. Liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, and cancer are all associated with these industrial chemicals, and exposure in utero can cause long-term organ development issues. The levels of PFASs found in Kalamazoo County water far exceeded the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) recommended safety limits.
Catastrophic water contamination, like that of the Flint Water Crisis, has caused concern that this could happen elsewhere. While water utilities work to prevent events like the Michigan water crisis from occurring again, more and more homeowners are taking an active part in keeping harmful toxins out of their drinking supply.
Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe
What measures can we take to protect our families and keep our home’s drinking water safe? First, have your water tested. You need to know what’s in it, to know what to get rid of. Obtain a water quality report from your supplier and have an independent certified lab test your water. This will tell you the type and level of bacteria, contaminants or toxins that should be removed.
Next, buy a water filter. Filtration systems come in many shapes and sizes and have different capabilities. They are extremely effective at removing impurities, but not all filtration systems are alike. You’ll need a system that is specific for your home’s water needs.
Point of use (POU) systems filter water where it is being used and is installed at a single connection. A point of entry (POE) system, or whole house water filter, is installed at the main water line, where the water first enters your home. Then, the treated water can flow to every tap and water-using appliance. Whole home water filtration systems target and remove a broad range of contaminants including hardness, chlorine/chloramines, iron, sulfur, and VOC’s.
Avoid Exposure to Lead
It’s important to note that POE systems will not filter out the lead that could be leaching from your own pipes. If your lead problem comes from within, you’ll need a POU filtration system in which the water will be purified after it flows through your entire home and immediately before it runs through your tap.
POU filters can remove 99% of lead and 96% of mercury, along with many other contaminants; you’ll want these types of filters at every faucet used for drinking water.
Each water filtration system guards against specific contaminants. Make sure your filter will reduce or eliminate the risk of lead. Point of entry and point of use systems can also be used together to create a complete solution for clean, purified water.
Not sure if you’re making a healthy choice? Check whether a particular brand of filtration has been certified by NSF International. NSF is a not for profit organization whose standards are accepted by government regulatory agencies. NSF certified water filters verify a system’s ability to reduce lead and other contaminants in your drinking water.
Taking Charge of Your Health
Experts warn that America’s water crisis goes beyond the current health challenges of Michigan water. Millions of U.S. citizens are subject to unhealthy contaminants in their drinking water and it’s clear that improved detection systems are needed.
Residents should never be in the dark when it comes to the potential health risks in their water supply. Drinking unfiltered water in areas with elevated levels of lead or other chemicals can have disastrous effects. Whether in our cities or in our homes, it’s clear that water purification is an essential, healthful investment.
If you want to know how clean your city’s water is - check the annual water quality report issued by your local municipality or water provider. Americans should never have to consume unsafe water. With a multitude of superior filtration methods available, drinking water permeated by pollutants and chemicals is simply not an option.