There is an interesting article in the spring 2016 issue of The Analyst detailing the missteps the city of Flint, Michigan took leading to elevated levels of lead, among other things, leaching into the water supply. It all began with the city’s desire to reduce their water costs. Flint had been getting its water from the Detroit Water & Sewage Department, which would treat it at their facilities before sending it to Flint. Flint reached a deal with the Karegnondi Water Authority to supply the city’s water at a reduced cost. As a temporary solution, while a new pipeline from Lake Huron was being constructed, Flint began taking its water from the Flint River and treating it at their own treatment plant. This is when issues began, including “foul-tasting, reddish water” coming out of residents taps, Escherichia coli contamination, and extremely high levels of lead detected in the water supply. This was all caused by the city of Flint’s failure to optimize their water chemistry after switching water supplies. Detroit had been adding orthophosphates to the water as part of their corrosion control plan to maintain a mineral crust, or passivation layer, on the inside of the city’s pipelines, which prevented oxidants from reacting with the iron, copper, or lead in the pipes. The city of Flint failed to do the same. The absence of these phosphates, as well as the negligence in monitoring and controlling the pH of the water, lead the mineral crust on the pipes to begin flaking off and dissolving into the water, causing the water issues. The city of Flint has since switched back to getting their water from Detroit, but the damage has been done. It could take many months for the pipes to rebuild the mineral crust, slowing corrosion to normal levels, and reducing lead contamination to acceptable levels.
This article does a worthy job of educating those outside the water treatment industry about why it is so important to optimize water conditions through responsible water chemistry. These issues need to be addressed in your boiler, cooling tower, and closed loop system as well. Corrosion and scale formation can cause these systems to lose efficiency, or worse yet, fail completely if not treated properly causing significant consequences. There is no more environmentally responsible, safer, and easier to use way of treating these systems than our large selection of blended solid concentrates. Contact a member of our sales team today to learn more about how we can help implement more responsible water chemistry in your facilities.
Written by Trey Tolbert (Production Manager at APTech Group and with the company since 2010)
Torrice, Michael. “How Lead Ended Up in Flint’s Tap Water.” The Analyst Spring 2016: 34-42. Print.