Edwards: Don't drink Flint's water, but you need to use it - WNEM TV 5

Edwards: Don't drink Flint's water, but you need to use it

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Dr. Mark Edwards (Source: CBS) Dr. Mark Edwards (Source: CBS)
FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

Dr. Mark Edwards from Virginia Tech and the Flint water team gave an update on the health of the water system on Tuesday.

After analyzing water samples taken from Flint in March 2016 versus samples taken from August 2015, Edwards said the system is in much better shape than in 2015 in terms of lead, but people should still use filters and bottled water.

Edwards also said even if a home had tested safe for lead levels in the past that does not mean that lead levels won’t go back up.

In fact, the study found the 48504 zip code has seen steady lead concentrations, at levels that exceed the EPA lead action level.

The Virginia Tech studies found 5 percent of tested homes had lead levels above EPA action levels in both 2015 and 2016. Ten percent of homes had lead levels above EPA action levels only in 2016.

One issue hindering the clean-up of the water system is actually the low use of water in the City of Flint, Edwards said.  Many Flint residents aren’t using much water for a variety of reasons. According to Edwards, that’s hurting recovery efforts.

Water needs to be run to help re-coat pipes and flush out any deposits that may be in the pipes.

Edwards said increased water use will also help control the bacteria levels in the water. Bacteria levels are a possible cause of a Legionella outbreak in Genesee County, but also contribute to the odor and taste of the water, among other bacteria that may be in the system. Other bacteria can cause rashes, eat up pipes, among other things.

Edwards also said there is an idea among many Flint residents that lower water use in homes will improve the water quality. Edwards said the opposite is actually true.

The more water the residents use, the better the quality of water.

"The hope is, if we implement this, the system will recover in a few weeks or months as opposed to months or years," Edwards said.

Edwards stressed bottled or filtered water should still be used for drinking, brushing teeth, etc. 

"Flint residents should have no more concern about taking a bath or a shower at present than anyone in any other city," Edwards said.

While taking questions following the presentation, Edwards said he believes the pipes in Flint need to come out and the water mains need to be fixed as well. He said the federal and state governments owe it to Flint to help upgrade the water system.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had this to say following the press conference: 

"We appreciate all the work Dr. Edwards continues to provide the City of Flint as we work to recover from this water crisis. The findings Dr. Edwards presented today seem right in line with what we've been saying all along. We know the water in Flint is still not safe for residents to drink straight from the tap, and there's no telling when it will be. This is why my team and I are moving forward with the Fast Start plan to replace lead and galvanized pipes to homes in the City of Flint.

Dr. Edwards addressed the need for new pipes in Flint and stressed the need for the state and federal government to provide the funding to get the job done. The cost for the Fast Start plan is estimated at $55 million. We've replaced pipes at 33 homes so far, and we could be doing a lot more if we only had the funding to do so from the state. Dr. Edwards also mentioned the antiquated water mains in Flint and the need for those to be replaced. We know the water infrastructure in Flint is old and has suffered extreme damage from this man-made water disaster. We need the funding to replace it. And it should come from the state and federal government.

We did not deserve what happened here in Flint, but we do deserve the resources needed to fix it. We need this done now. There's no reason to wait. The governor says he wants to do everything he can to fix this water disaster in Flint. Well then give us the funding we need to fix it."

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