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Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Aug 7;52(15):8124-8132. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00791. Epub 2018 Jul 11.

Evaluating Water Lead Levels During the Flint Water Crisis.

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Civil and Environmental Engineering , Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University , 418 Durham Hall , Blacksburg , Virginia 24061 , United States.
Citizen Scientist, 212 Browning Avenue , Flint , Michigan 48507 , United States.


In April 2014, the drinking water source in Flint, Michigan was switched from Lake Huron water with phosphate inhibitors to Flint River water without corrosion inhibitors. The absence of corrosion control and use of a more corrosive source increased lead leaching from plumbing. Our city-wide citizen science water lead results contradicted official claims that there was no problem- our 90th percentile was 26.8 μg/L, which was almost double the Lead and Copper Rule action level of 15 μg/L. Back calculations of a LCR sampling pool with 50% lead pipes indicated an estimated 90th percentile lead value of 31.7 μg/L (±4.3 μg/L). Four subsequent sampling efforts were conducted to track reductions in water lead after the switch back to Lake Huron water and enhanced corrosion control. The incidence of water lead varied by service line material. Between August 2015 and November 2016, median water lead reduced from 3.0 to <1 μg/L for homes with copper service lines, 7.2-1.9 μg/L with galvanized service lines, and 9.9-2.3 μg/L with lead service lines. As of summer 2017, our 90th percentile of 7.9 μg/L no longer differed from official results, which indicated Flint's water lead levels were below the action level.

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