Michigan environmental officials said Flint's water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit.
The finding by the Department of Environmental Quality is good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have grappled with the man-made water crisis since 2014.
Officials told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Tuesday that the 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December - below the "action level" of 15 ppb. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period.
State officials said Flint's lead levels are now comparable to other U.S. cities, but that residents must still use filters because the ongoing replacement of pipes could spike lead levels in some homes.
Flint's emergency began when officials failed to properly treat lead lines for corrosion.
"The recent announcement confirms what we have been saying for the last eight months, the lead levels are dropping," Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards said.
He said the news is good, but more work needs to be done.
"Now it's in the range of other cities. In fact, better than some other cities including Chicago. But that's really nothing to brag about," Edwards said.
Edwards said he will continue to monitor the water for the foreseeable future and hopes the end is near for the people of Flint.
"The reality of it is that as long as we have lead pipes, even if they meet federal law as Flint probably does, we no longer consider that water safe to drink," Edwards said.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver released the following statement:
It is encouraging that test results from the water samples show great improvement and meet the federal Lead and Copper Rule. However, I want to assure the citizens of Flint that despite this development our efforts to put safeguards in place will continue. The water resource sites located around the city will remain in operation and continue to provide residents with free water filters, replacement cartridges as well as bottled water. We have been assured by MDEQ officials that free water testing will continue and I want parents to know that efforts to monitor the water quality in schools will be ongoing as well.
We are not out of the woods yet. My goal has not changed. All of the lead-tainted pipes in Flint still need to be replaced. We are making progress toward that goal and through my FAST Start program hope to have another 6,000 pipes replaced this year. But we still need help and support from the state and federal government so that all of the estimated 20,000 lead-tainted pipes remaining in the city will be replaced.
Below is a letter to Weaver on the issue. Mobile users click here.
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