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The Dirty Water Debate: Flint, Michigan

dirty waterCitizens of Flint, Michigan, are angry—and rightly so. The water flowing from their taps is a dirty brown. Freshly drawn bathwater has an oily film, and brown rust circles are appearing around drains. There are claims of mysterious rashes developing on young children and unexplained illnesses. Pets who drink the municipality’s water are falling sick, and even houseplants are dying. General Motors has pulled its Flint Engine Operations off the local water system entirely, claiming the water is too corrosive.

It’s a nasty situation, and no one seems able to adequately identify the cause. Some blame the water source—the Flint River has a long history of toxins introduced by heavy industry. Others blame a rapidly aging water supply infrastructure. Many believe local and state politicians have sidestepped the issue for too long, or mismanaged the water supply. The fact the dirty water comes with increasingly steep water bills (several hundred dollars a month in some cases) just adds insult to injury.

Between August and September of 2014 the town was under boil water advisories three times due to coliform bacteria, a microorganism whose presence in water can cause gastrointestinal issues and illuminates the possible presence of other disease-causing microorganisms. Aggressive treatment appears to have removed the bacteria, but added high levels of TTHM, or total trihalomethane—a disinfectant byproduct—to the water. The levels of TTHM in 2014 water tests caused the city to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As for the color of what one resident describes as “poop” water, the most likely cause is iron and calcium sloughing off old city pipes as new water enters the system. Such minerals are known to effect plumbing and appliance function and can increase the risk of dermatitis when found in water systems.

Flint is facing a nasty situation with no clear solution in sight. While the city was recently awarded $2 million in grants to update the water system, this is just the first step in a “long-term process”, according to Mayor Dayne Walling.

Even if the water is safe to drink, it’s unappealing color and smell makes it unacceptable. And as the national water infrastructure ages, such problems are likely to become more and more common. Why take chances with your home’s water supply?

Pelican Water recently donated a PSE1800 combo whole-house filter and salt-free water softener to Our Home Transitional, an organization based in Flint, Michigan that provides assistance to homeless female veterans. The filter eliminates contaminants while the salt-free softener naturally reduces hard water scale to provide softer, safer, cleaner water for Our Home Transitional veterans.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter