How did the Flint, Michigan Water Supply Become Contaminated with Lead?
It is understandable for most people to question the logic behind using lead-based products for things associated with human consumption. In the past decades, lawmakers and legislators have made strides to increase awareness and to stop lead poisoning. For example, the state of California requires a disclaimer on any product that may contain lead and laws have passed to eliminate lead in paint and gasoline.
Recently, due to the reporting of mainstream media, the national public has become aware of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. With this in mind, A&T Well and Pump aims to provide information that may be useful in understanding the issue of water contamination and how the residents of Flint were exposed to high levels of lead in their water supply.
Why Use Lead in Plumbing?
Prior to the 1980’s, plumbing in cities, buildings, and homes often contained lead piping or lead soldering to connect pipes made of copper or other metals. Lead was, and, to a small degree, still is, used, in plumbing because of the malleable nature of lead and its resistance to pinhole leaks. In other words, lead was a great resource for plumbing because it fills the microscopic cracks that are present when two metals are joined. Also, lead can be easily molded to create a variety of commonly used plumbing supplies.
So, how did lead pass the test to remain prevalent in many of the major US cities’ water systems?
When water passes through a lead pipe or fitting under pressure, the dissolved oxygen in the water binds to the surface of lead forming a metal oxide barrier. Over decades the oxidation layer naturally coats and “seals” the pipe surface. If needed, lime or orthophosphates can be added to the water supply to create additional layers of barrier protection.
This biologic growth, “biofilm,” coats the pipes, isolating the water from the metal. If properly maintained, the trace levels of lead in water become negligible, and health isn’t compromised.
If Lead is Safe in Plumbing, Why is Flint’s Water a Problem?
Originally, Lake Huron was the water source that supplied Flint residents with clean water. However, Flint was paying the city of Detroit for water supplied from Huron. In 2014, to reduce expenses during a financial crisis, Flint decided to temporarily switch to the Flint River as a water supply until a new, less costly pipeline from Huron could be built.
The problem was the Flint River is considered to be filthy. US government regulations require a city’s water supply to be monitored and steps properly taken to prevent the public from consuming contaminated water. These regulations were either ignored or neglected, thus causing copious amounts of corrosive water to flow through the lead pipes. By failing to introduce anti-corrosive agents to combat the highly corrosive water contaminants, the water destroyed the existing barrier protection and began to “eat” away at the piping, leeching lead into the water supply.
Can Anything be Done to Reverse Contaminated Water?
In many cases, yes. Water can be treated to dissolve or remove pollutants, making the water safe for consumption.
Although the water supply in Flint is again being drawn from Lake Huron, much of the damage has been done and may continue for years; the plumbing infrastructure is damaged and the effects of lead poisoning remain.
How Does this Affect You?
It is important to be aware of the water that supplies your home or business. Your health and the health of your family could be jeopardized by poor water quality. In Flint, many of the citizens may have been able to avoid lead contamination by using personal water wells. However, even well owners must take the necessary steps to prevent illness associated with water contamination. If a well becomes soiled by sand and debris from collapsing well walls or flooded areas spilling unhealthy water into a previously clean aquifer, then a professional well pump repair company must be contacted.
In most cases, a contaminated well can be treated and ready for consumption in a matter of days. But, if a well is damaged beyond repair, a water well pump company can offer you options to resolve the matter quickly and affordably.
Do You Need a Raleigh Well Pump Inspection?
If you have experienced poor water quality, lack of water or simply want a routine inspection of your water well or well pump, then A&T Well and Pump is available 24/7 for superior water well services in Raleigh, NC. Our team provides a variety of services ranging from well digging to well abandonment and well inspections and repair.