Researchers: Flint water lead levels are down; residents need to use more water

Researchers explain water still is not safe to drink

A research team led by Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards announced Tuesday lead levels in Flint's drinking water have decreased since August, but not enough for the water to be safe to drink without being filtered.

To speed up the recovery process for the water system, Edwards and his Flint Water Study team suggest Flint residents start using more water. That doesn't mean residents should start drinking the water straight from the faucet, but water needs to flow through the pipes for purposes such as bathing, flushing the toilet and showering. 

Edwards said residents need to continue using water filters and bottled water for drinking purposes, unless they are sure their homes are not serviced by lead pipes. 

"We gotta get more water flowing through the system," Edwards said during a news conference Tuesday morning. 

His team explained the system's pipes need to have a protective scale layer replaced, which requires flowing water. The layer was stripped by untreated water from the Flint River, which caused lead and iron from the pipes to leach into the water system. 

Here is the entire presentation file which explains this process in more detail: View and/or download here.

"From every single scientific perspective, the more water a resident uses, the better the water will be," said Edwards. 

He emphasized things like running the faucet at certain intervals, washing dishes and flushing the toilet can be done by residents to help "heal the pipes."

"What we discovered is that many Flint residents, not surprisingly, are not using very much water. They're not drawing a lot of clean water into their home from the water main. This is hindering the recovery of their home plumbing and also the cleaning up of the deposits that might be present in there," said Edwards. 

Edwards: Flint residents should be bathing with water

Edwards said the water in Flint now has a better amount of chlorine, "within normal ranges." Residents should be bathing with it and should not feel unsafe doing so.

"Flint residents should not have any concern about taking a bath or shower," he said. "Flint's water is just as safe (for bathing), and probably safer, than any other city in the United States."

As for when the water will be safe to drink, Edwards said more testing will need to be done this year to determine if the water lead levels are low enough for residents to start drinking from the tap again. 

Complete Coverage: The Flint Water Crisis