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BREAKING: Ex-Governor of Michigan Charged for His Involvement in the Flint Water Crisis

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, January 18, 2021 at 4:58 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives   

Ex-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged for his involvement in the Flint Water Crisis. Governor Snyder is being accused of "willful neglect." We still don’t know the specifics of these charges because this is is very much still breaking news, but the state of Michigan has charged the ex-Governor, his health director at the time, and other ex officials for their involvement. 

Terror in Flint: 

If you aren't familiar with what happened in Flint, here's a quick overview: Flint officials switched their source water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost cutting measure. The Flint River was more corrosive than their previous source, Lake Huron. City officials did not appropriately address the issue of corrosive water and its effect on lead pipes. The corrosive water allowed lead to leach into the water system, which poisoned tens of thousands of young children. The source water switch was also responsible for an outbreak of legionnaires disease. Children were so wildly impacted by this crisis that 80% of the money from a $600 million dollar settlement is being awarded to minors. This is because of leads impact on brain development in young children.

Ex-City Officials and Former Governor Are Allegedly Responsible 

The State of Michigan is charging Rick Snyder with "willful neglect." Rick Snyder appointed the city’s emergency manager, who was responsible for switching Flint’s Water supply. Allegedly, two people on Rick Snyder's team expressed concerns about Flint’s water as early as October, 2014 - which was just 6 months after the city switched its source water. Snyder has since denied knowing about the possible water issue this early on. Flint transitioned back to its original source water in October of 2015, but lead levels still remained above the federal action level. It was until January 16 of 2016 when Rick Snyder requested that the federal government declare a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan. So the question becomes, when did Rick Snyder and other city officials know that lead and legionnaires was a problem in this majority black community? 

*This story is still breaking and the details of the charges are unknown. We will keep you updated on our Instagram (@hydroviv_h2o)*

Other Articles Related To The Flint Water Crisis:
Michigan To Pay $600 Million To Flint Residents Impacted By Lead In Drinking Water
Hydroviv's Water Filter Donation Program With Little Miss Flint
The Other Contaminant From The Flint Water Crisis That No One Is Talking About: PFAS

EPA Revises Lead and Copper Rule After Almost 3 Decades of Inaction

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 11:48 am -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently made revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates the amount of lead allowed in municipal tap water. The Lead and Copper Rule has not been significantly updated since it was created in 1991 - meaning that the same regulatory standards have been in place for almost 3 decades. EPA’s recent update did not fundamentally change this outdated law, and the agency still has a long way to go in reducing lead contamination in the nations drinking water. 

Lead Pipes Are Still Problematic in 2021

There are an estimated 6.3 to 9.3 million homes in the United States that still have a Lead Service Line (LSL). Most of these homes were built before 1986, when the use of lead was banned in pipes, solder and plumbing. Flint, Michigan dominated headlines in 2015 when 99,000 people were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, including thousands of children. Flint was not and is not the only city with unsafe lead levels. There are still dozens of large cities that have lead levels above what health officials claim to be safe, including: Chicago, Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles

No Safe Level Of Lead For Children 

The current federal Action Level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion. Lead is unique from other drinking water contaminants because it follows the 90th Percentile Rule, which has been criticized by various reputable environmental non-profits. The Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged that 15 parts per billion is not a health standard, but rather a feasible level of enforcement - meaning anything less than 15 parts per billion is too stringent for municipal compliance. The problem is that there is no safe level of lead for children. Any level of exposure has the potential to cause irreversible developmental damages, including; lowered IQ’s, behavioral difficulties, and other learning problems. EPA has even acknowledged that children should not be exposed to any level of lead. 

 

Latest Revisions To The Rule:

EPA made a handful of small modifications to the original 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. One of the major updates to the rule is increasing EPA’s “inventory” of Lead Service Lines throughout the country. Once LSL’s and pipes have been identified, EPA will require communities to “find and fix'' homes that exceed 15 parts per billion. The system must provide documentation to the state if they’re unable to fix or mitigate the lead levels. Under the rule revisions, systems serving greater than 50,000 people will be required to make the LSL inventory available online. Also, municipal systems will be required to provide annual notices to homeowners with LSL’s. Replacing LSL’s are particularly tricky to manage because they’re co-owned by the city and homeowner. Some cities have programs to coordinate replacing the public and private side of the line at the same time.  

EPA’s New “Trigger Level” For Lead

Part of EPA’s revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule include a new “trigger level.” According to the regulatory revisions, systems that have a 90th percentile higher than 10 parts per billion will be required to work with their state to determine annual lead line replacement goals. This “trigger level” is not a new Action Level, and does not initiate a violation if a water system has higher than 10 ppb lead. EPA also pointed out in the proposed regulation that the trigger level is also not a health standard. As previously stated, any concentration of lead can be harmful to children. 

Will The New Updates Better Protect Public Health?

In the short term, no. There is no real "quick fix" for lead contamination. Replacing lead pipes and Lead Services Lines takes time, and can actually cause an increase in lead levels during and after construction. While these changes are better than nothing, the recent revisions are not a significant overhaul of an extremely flawed regulation. The inventory however, has the potential to make people aware of LSL's in their homes. 

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Chicago's Problematic Lead Service Line Replacement Program

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 12:08 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

Over 6.1 million homes in the United States still use a Lead Service Line (LSL) to deliver drinking water into their homes. The City of Chicago has more lead pipes and Lead Service Lines than anywhere else in the country, according to  Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The city recently announced that it would prioritize replacing Lead Service Lines beginning in 2021. Unfortunately, the program isn’t as all-encompassing as would be expected by a city the size of Chicago. This article will break down Chicago’s lead line replacement program, and discuss other cities in the U.S. with similar issues. 

Details of Chicago's Lead Service Line Replacement Program:

Lead-Safe Chicago was initiated in 2020 to bring further attention to Chicago’s unresolved lead crisis. The city will assist low-income residents by providing a free lead line replacements to households with a combined income of below $67,300. Households who make more than $67,300 and do not qualify, are encouraged to participate in the “homeowner-initiated program” -  which means that homeowners must identify their Lead Service Line, pay for it to be replaced, and pay for bottled water/filtration while the line is being replaced. The projected average cost to a homeowner in Chicago will by $6,000. The city has offered to waive all permitting fees, which they claim to be as high as $3,000. The homeowner-initiated program is entirely voluntary, and not mandated by the city of Chicago. It's important to mention that because Chicago has an estimated 400,000 Lead Service Lines, this program will take years to complete.

Lead Levels Often Increase for Months After Replacing a Lead Service Line

It may seem counter-intuitive, but lead levels often increase for at least a few months, if not over a year, after a lead service line is replaced. This is because the protective coating inside the pipe (created by years of corrosion control) gets disrupted, and the debris/freshly uncovered pipes surface can contaminate water with lead. One of our scientists wrote an article that goes into further detail about this. You can check it out here

If You Rent in Chicago, You're on Your Own

There are over 1 million renters in the City of Chicago. This initiative does not require homeowners or landlords to take any sort of action, or replace an existing lead service lines. If you rent or lease in Chicago, you’re entirely on your own for ensuring your tap water is free of lead. 

Chicago Water is 9 Times Above The Public Health Goal for Lead

Despite having the most lead pipes in the country, Mayor Lightfoot continues to claim that Chicago water “meets all safety standards.” It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “safety standard.” Federal regulatory standards, also referred to as “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (or “Action Level” for lead), are the enforceable standards used by EPA. These federal regulatory standards are not entirely based on health outcomes, and must weigh the cost of removing a contaminant with the benefits to public health. Health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics have created public health standards, which on the contrary, are actually based on health impacts. According to both of these agencies, there's is no "safe" level of lead for children. The Environmental Protection Agency has even created a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of 0 parts per billion for lead. Lead levels in Chicago are currently 9 times higher than this public health goal. 

Chicago is Not Alone: 

This ongoing and unresolved lead crisis in not unique to Chicago. New York City, Pittsburgh, Newark, Denver, Portland, Oregon and so many more all have underreported issues with lead in drinking water. Municipalities are not always forthcoming about the safety of the water flowing through their taps. In June of 2018, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey claimed that Newark’s drinking water was safe for consumption and that residents could continue drinking Newark tap water. Unfortunately, Newark was actually in exceedance of the federal Lead Action Level of 15 parts per billion. If you have any questions about your city's water quality report, one of our Water Nerds would be happy to help! You can send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or send us a chat on our homepage: hydroviv.com.

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