Flint: In Loco Parentis Knows Best

The troubles with lead in Flint, Michigan’s water grabbed the media’s attention in early 2016. Flint’s switch from using Detroit’s water to drafting from the Flint River changed the pH of the water being treated to the acidic side. Its logarithmic scale goes from 0-14 (0= high acidic and 14 = highly basic). A pH of 7.0 is neutral. A pH less than 7.0 (acidic) will corrode pipes, the lower the number the faster the corrosion.

The possible treatments for Flint’s acidic water to neutralize the acid water included: adding soda ash, passing the water through a neutralizing filter (of calcium carbonate or calcite), or adding a polyphosphate to create a protective layer on the pipes.

The Flint water provider took none of these precautions. According to an AP story, Flint water’s laboratory supervisor asked the state’s district engineer of the ‘Michigan Department of Environmental Quality how often staffers would need to check the water for proper levels of phosphate…’ He was told, “You don’t need to monitor phosphate because you’re not required to add it.”‘ So they didn’t add a key chemical to prevent the corrosion their customers’ pipes, which resulted in lead leaching into their customers’ drinking water.

As a result of not being required by the state regulator to address the water’s acidity (corrosion potential), local water treatment people didn’t treat it, the acidic water leached lead from pipes in Flint’s homes.

As a result of not being required by the state regulator to address the water’s acidity (corrosion potential), local water treatment people didn’t treat it, the acidic water leached lead from pipes in Flint’s homes.

Water companies (like any other company) need to spend their money wisely, and Flint, in particular, did not have money for anything the state didn’t they needed to do. The state, after all, knew what they were doing, right?

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