Read the full article from Michigan Radio.
On April 25, 2014, the city of Flint switched its water source to the Flint River without properly treating it. That damaged thousands of lead and galvanized water pipes which the city is replacing.
In 2016, University of Michigan researchers developed an algorithm to determine the neighborhoods most likely to have lead pipes. The on-again, off-again use of the model has raised concerns about the efficiency of the city's pipe replacement program.
The records for more than a century's worth of water pipe installations at homes in Flint are incomplete and often unreliable, so the algorithm uses whatever data are available, including the parcels, the years homes were built, and any confirmed construction materials in neighboring homes.
U of M professor of marketing Eric Schwartz worked on the project. In an interview with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Doug Tribou, Schwartz said the machine-learning model helped the city get its work crews to areas where they would find a lot of lead pipes.
"Early on, we really looked at our success by saying, 'For every 100 homes that the city was going to with the intention of replacing [lead lines], how many of those homes really did need replacing?' And that number was around 80, 82%," he said. "We are trying to do better than just searching randomly across the city."
See the full article in WBEZ 91.5.
About 700 Chicago Park District drinking fountains are connected to water mains through lead service lines that can leach lead into the water. This week, park district officials say they have a five-year plan to either remove those fountains or replace the toxic lines with copper.
The move comes after tests in recent years found lead in the water of hundreds of park fountains — some 80 times higher than federal compliance levels.
“From here forward there are about 700 fountains that need to be addressed with our long-term plan,” said Dan Cooper, the district’s director of environmental services. “About 350 will be removed and 350 will be fixed with lead service line replacements.”
Although several fountains with lead plumbing are currently in operation at city parks, Cooper said those have been deemed “safe” to drink from, meaning most recent tests have shown lead levels at less than 2 parts per billion. Health authorities stress there is no safe level of lead for human consumption.
Cooper said many outdoor fountains are currently running continuously as part of a multi-week seasonal flushing. Many will be returned to push-button use in a few weeks. But fountains that had problematic lead readings in the past will continue to flow around the clock all season or until they have been fixed.
See the full article online.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency announced the launch of an online tool this week, making the data water systems are now required to report about materials, such as lead, in service lines search-able.
The database, available on the agency’s website, contains numbers from the first cycle of reporting as set out in a 2017 amendment to the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. The information is on 3.7 million service lines in 1,659 of the state’s 1,743 community water systems.
See the full blog online.
April 2, 2019 – The Clinic is releasing a paper analyzing the authority of water utilities in thirteen key states to use ratepayer funds to pay for full lead service line (LSL) replacement. The paper, “Rates Could Fund Lead Pipe Replacement in Critical States,” is the product of a partnership between the Clinic and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Clinic Deputy Director Shaun Goho and Clinic student Marcello Saenz (JD ’19) researched and wrote the paper in collaboration with Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director at EDF. Our analysis concludes that there are no explicit legal barriers to using ratepayer funds for LSL replacement in these states.
LSLs—the pipes that connect the water main under a street to the plumbing in a building—are the largest source of lead in drinking water in those homes that have them (see diagram).
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