Reflections on the Flint Water Heater Sampling Trip (June 2016)

For two weeks at the end of June, the Flint Water Study Team led a sampling effort which included a 14 person “sampling team,” which traveled to Flint, MI to collect samples, and an 8 person “lab team,” that stayed behind to process the samples. The purpose of this study was to look for the presence of Legionella bacteria in the homes of Flint residents – especially in the water heaters and hot water taps – located near the McLaren and Hurley Hospitals. We also wanted to determine if a simple water heater flushing protocol could be used to improve hot water quality. During the effort we sampled kitchen and bathroom taps, water heater drain valves, and cold flushed water from the distribution system at a total of 32 homes.

When the students were not knee deep in sampling, they got a chance to explore the Flint community. One of the community helpers with Orchard Children Services, Mr. Ronnie Russel, took the team to Bertson Field House to get a great lesson on Flint history from Mr. Bryant “BB” Nolden, a community hero. The team watched the weekly community baseball game, along with some delicious barbeque chicken and popsicles (thanks Mr. Ronnie). The students appreciated the good people, food, and music in preparation for another week of sampling.

Although sampling is over, the residents, plumbers, and volunteers we were able to connect with will never be forgotten. We would like to give a big thanks to all of the homeowners who volunteered in this effort. We’d also like to thank all the volunteers from Orchard Children Services and the plumbers who helped us every step along the way. This study could not have been conducted without them. Finally, we have to give a huge thank you to MDEQ for helping us with scheduling and for providing residents with answers to any questions they had.

We’re working on getting this data processed right now, and will post a summary as soon as we have it. Stay tuned!

Primary Author: Taylor N. Bradley

Acknowledgements: William Rhoads

Round III of Flint Lead-in-Water Testing Schedule (July 11-19 2016)

We are excited that testing begins on Monday, July 11th. Here is our testing schedule:

Week of July 11th

Woodside 1309 E. Court St.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday // 5-7 pm
Tuesday and Thursday // 11am-1pm

Saints of God Church 2200 Forest Hill Ave.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday // 11am-1pm
Tuesday and Thursday // 5-7pm

Week of July 18th

Woodside 1309 E. Court St.

Monday //11am-1pm
Tuesday // 5-7pm

Saints of God Church 2200 Forest Hill Ave.

Monday // 5-7pm
Tuesday // 11am-1pm

The last date for test kits to be turned in is July 19th. If you need a pick up or have any questions, please call LeeAnne Walters on 616-212-6233.

We want to give a big thank you to Woodside Church and Saints of God Church for donating space to us again for this round of testing.

Round III of Flint Lead-in-Water Testing (July 2016) Announcement

Hi Everyone!

We are getting ready to start the third round of Virginia Tech testing for Flint citizens who participated in the previous two rounds. The testing dates are July 11th through July 19th. We will post an update next week with the times and places for kit pick up. If you need to schedule for a kit drop off please email me at (or on Facebook). As a thank you for your participation and helping us gather this valuable data from the same homes sampled in August 2015 and March 2016, again Marc Edwards is giving $20.00 cash once your kit is returned during the dates listed above. We are so excited to be doing this again! Thank you again for your participation, and thanks to the EPA for providing us funding to re-sample and see the status of lead in Flint water!

— Lee

See more info on this effort here.

A Sick National Joke: The EPA Lead and Copper Rule Comes (Again) to the U.S. Congress

Back in Summer 1991, the nation was concerned when high lead in water was found in the U.S. Congress:

But thank goodness we fixed the problem with the EPA Lead and Copper Rule.

Whoops. Six months after inhibitor was added to water, in response to the D.C. Lead Crisis, someone checked and the problem with high lead in water was still there.

Capitol Hill Workers Told Not to Drink From Faucets
By David Nakamura Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page B03
Capitol Hill employees have been advised not to use water from bathroom and kitchen faucets for drinking or cooking after tests last month discovered excessive levels of lead in water at the Library of Congress.

Now, after Flint, a national lead in water cheating scandal exposed by the Guardian, breaking news on lax enforcement by the EPA, and about the 6th time parents in D.C. schools figured out their kids were being exposed to dangerously high lead….someone decided to check Congress again. Yep….still there.

Lead Contamination in Congressional Office Building Forces Water Shutdown

By now we’re used to Congress’s abysmal public approval ratings and the complaints of our fellow citizens. “They’re doing what with my tax dollars!?” they exclaim. “Geez. It’s almost like there’s something in the water.” Well, actually, there is something in the water. 1:20 PM, Jun 29, 2016 | By Alice B. Lloyd

Nice to know that our Congress, gets just a taste of what Flint residents, our school children and the rest of the nation are enduring.

Author: Dr. Marc Edwards

UMass Experts Recruited To Address DBP Questions In The Aftermath Of The Flint Water Crisis

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a tragedy. The lead (Pb) issue is well documented, as are the health effects from ingesting lead. No safe blood Pb level in children has been identified, and exposure to elevated levels of Pb can cause intellectual impairment and other health issues.

More recently, concerns have arisen regarding disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in Flint drinking water. Unlike exposure to high levels of Pb, the risk from DBPs is a chronic exposure risk, not an acute poisoning risk. In general, consuming elevated levels of DBPs is thought to cause an increased risk of some cancers over a typical lifetime. For this reason, some representative DBPs are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act.

DBPs are formed in the water distribution system through an oxidation reaction between chlorine and natural organic matter (NOM). This formation of DBPs is an unfortunate negative consequence of adding chlorine for water disinfection, which is very common in the United States and other countries. Water chlorination has been practiced for 112 years, starting in Jersey City.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of water chlorination–perhaps the most important public health breakthrough of modern civilization, leading to eradication of most waterborne disease. However, the chlorine required to inactivate pathogens also reacts with NOM to form halogenated (chlorine is a halogen) organic byproducts including total trihalomethanes (aka TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAAs). This reaction is well understood, and is known to be a function of NOM concentration and character, pH, chlorine dose, time, temperature and other factors. DBPs are always formed whenever chlorine is added to surface waters, but the concentration and type of DBPs vary somewhat from city to city.

TTHMs in Flint water were shown to be problematic in 2014, with violations noted in the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) of that year. (A similar violation for HAAs occurred in Amherst, Massachusetts that same year). Recently, DBPs including TTHMs have drawn attention following the discovery of Pb and other issues in the Flint Water system, and the subsequent measurement of some DBPs by non-scientists. However, the methods used in this sampling were unorthodox, relying on proprietary sponges marketed by the group, to collect samples, and the results are not comparable to refined and standard scientific methods. There are proven, peer-reviewed and published methods for collecting and analyzing DBP samples. These methods were refined by researchers at UMass, and trustworthy data that is scientifically rigorous are needed during times of crisis.

The UMass team was recruited by Virginia Tech, to execute the advanced DBP sampling. The team (lead by Dr. David Reckhow) is bringing drinking water quality expertise, to quantify the extent of DBP formation in the drinking water currently delivered to Flint residents, following the switch back to the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD). It should be noted that, before the switch to Flint River in 2014, DWSD water was far below regulatory limits for TTHMs and HAAs, and no changes to the system during the water crisis is expected to affect formation of DBPs in the Flint system.

Initial results from samples collected in May 2016 indicate that there is nothing exceptional about DBP levels in Flint. Additional rounds of sampling and analyses are now being conducted to gather more information. Beyond regulated TTHMs and HAAs, the UMass team is also conducting analysis for >60 unregulated byproducts to get a more complete picture of the drinking water quality.Results from analysis will be forthcoming.

Members of the UMass Flint DBP Team include:

Dr. Dave Reckhow (Team Lead)

Dr. Joe Goodwill (DBP sampling, THMs, Iodo-THMs and other volatiles)

Yanjun Jiang (Iodo-THMs and other volatiles)

Xuyen Mai (DBP sampling)

Xian “Max” Ma (DBP sampling, Haloacetamides)

Ran Zhao (Haloacetamides and HAAs)

Soon-Mi Kim (Haloacids)

Yun “Rosa” Yu (N-halo-haloacetamides)

Aarthi Mohan (Halobenzoquinones)

Pranav Mashankar (Aldehydes)

Sherrie Webb-Yagodzinski (Sampling preparation)

Select members from both UMass Amherst and Virginia Tech during a sampling trip in late-May
Select members from both UMass Amherst and Virginia Tech during a sampling trip in late-May

Primary Author: Dr. Joseph Goodwill

Acknowledgements: Drs. Dave Reckhow and Marc Edwards