Flint Water Testing in the news

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How to make sure your water filter really removes lead

A problem with high levels of lead in Newark’s drinking water led the city last year to distribute water filters to residents. But that plan hit a snag this week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alerted the city that drinking water in two of three homes it tested still had high levels of lead, despite the filters. The EPA advised Newark residents to stop drinking tap water and urged the city to supply bottled water instead (though that solution also ran into problems when the city learned some of the water had passed its expiration date). Filters certified to remove lead must undergo rigorous testing by NSF or other labs. The Water Quality Association, for instance, tests the filters with water contaminated at 150 parts per billion—10 times higher than the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. Researchers in Flint even pushed filters to the extreme, testing with water contaminated to 1,000 ppb, and found they still removed all lead from the water. The filters distributed in Newark were activated carbon filters certified to remove lead. But not all filters can do that. “Activated carbon has a lot of surface area with nooks and crannies where chemicals can stick,” says Shawn McElmurry, a Wayne State University professor who did extensive field research during the Flint water crisis. “But it’s not infinite.” To add to the chaos, McElmurry says there could be other contaminants in the water competing for those attachment sites. And if some of those contaminants have more mass or energy, they could knock some lead loose—like throwing softballs at your Velcro wall of tennis balls. Faucet-mount filters, like those used in Flint and Newark, typically cost $20 to $40 and require several installation steps that can go awry. “These filters are not easy to get onto the faucets,” McElmurry says. “We found that a lot of people in Flint with arthritis or poor motor function in their hands couldn’t attach them.” 
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Flint water switch led to most Legionnaires’ cases

Most of the more than 90 Legionnaires’ disease cases during the deadly 2014-15 outbreak in the Flint area were caused by changes in the city’s water supply — and the epidemic may have been more widespread than previously believed, according to two studies published Monday. “There was clearly a large proportion of cases that can be attributed to the switch in the water,” said Shawn McElmurry, an environmental engineering associate professor at Wayne State University who leads the research partnership. “While there may not have been a good enough epidemiological investigation at the time, and the data may not have been collected..., this makes it very clear that the increase in the Legionnaires’ cases is attributable to the change in water quality.” 
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WSU prof: State officials stalled Flint water tests

A Wayne State University professor tasked by Gov. Rick Snyder with helping investigate whether the Flint area Legionnaires’ outbreak was connected to the switch to the Flint River said on Friday state officials tried to stall his team so they didn’t find anything in the water system. Shawn McElmurry, an environmental engineering associate professor hired by the state, testified Friday in the preliminary hearing of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon that the group was being set up to fail. He also worried the budget limits for the 2016 study would hinder his sampling and research because he wouldn’t be able to hire as many staffers as necessary.
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Lead not likely the cause of increased cases of legionnaires’ disease in Flint but…

Researchers from Wayne State University are working to identify why the number of people with Legionnaires’ Disease spiked during the Flint water crisis. The study, in its second year, is expanding to include an examination of the disease in Wayne County. Legionnaires Disease is a form of pneumonia that often hits people over the age of 50 and those with underlying immune system problems. Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Director of Research at Wayne State University, Paul Kilgore, and Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at Wayne State,  Shawn McElmurry, spoke with WDET’s Amy Miller. McElmurry says Legionella bacteria is readily found in the environment.