Researchers: Flint water improving, but stick with filters

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards announced on Friday the water quality in Flint has improved, but still not safe enough to drink. (Photo: WEYI)

Researchers from Virginia Tech who played a critical role in the discovery of lead in Flint's water supply say tests reveal the water quality has improved.

Virginia Tech says lead wasn't detected in 57 percent of 154 Flint homes tested in November - up from 44 percent in July.

Professor Marc Edwards who is leading the Flint water study says while lead levels are getting lower, he recommends residents keep using bottled water and filters.

State and federal interventions following the declaration of the water crisis, and the city switching back to the Detroit water system are believed to be the reasons for lead levels getting lower.

"We are seeing very low levels of iron, discolorization and other harmful bacteria," said Edwards during a press conference at Virginia Tech on Friday.

The Virginia Tech research team also sampled water from homes in Saginaw and Genesee counties after a Shigella outbreak peaked over the summer. However, researchers say they cannot find a link between Shigella and the Flint water system prior to the switch to Detroit water.

"We've concluded that at least from our tests, we found Shigella is not in the drinking water and is not a major source for the infection," said Owen Strom who is a researcher with the Virginia Tech Flint water team.

While Flint's water system is healing, Edwards says all homes in Flint and across the country are at risk for lead poisoning if they have lead pipes in their homes.

"We've done enough sampling to know corrosion control is a band-aid. As long as lead pipes are there, there is a hazard in front of your house that could cause lead poisoning for yourself and your family," said Edwards.

Flint developed lead problem because it used water from the Flint River for 18 months without treating it to prevent pipe corrosion. As a result, the water caused lead to leach from old pipes and into homes.

But since the fall of 2015, the city has been tapped into a regional water system that uses corrosion controls. That's why the testing results have improved.

Nevertheless, researcher Marc Edwards emphasized again that residents still should keep a lead filter on their kitchen taps.

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