DETROIT (AP) — Water in Flint, Michigan, continues to improve, researchers reported Friday after finding no detectable levels of lead in 57 percent of homes during another round of tests.
Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, a scientist who revealed Flint's alarming lead levels in 2015, said the "public health crisis" is nearing an end, although he firmly urged residents to continue to use filters on kitchen faucets — perhaps for as long as it takes to replace the old steel lines that bring water into homes.
"It's very likely folks will never be told the water is safe as long as those lead pipes are there," Edwards said during a news conference at Virginia Tech that was streamed online.
Edwards, along with state and federal authorities, has repeatedly recommended filters or bottled water. Those continue to be distributed for free to Flint's roughly 100,000 residents.
Flint has a lead problem because it used water from the Flint River for 18 months without treating it to prevent pipe corrosion. As a result, the water caused lead to leach from old pipes and through home taps.
But since fall 2015, Flint has been getting water from a regional system that uses corrosion controls. That treatment is coating the pipes again and helping the system heal.
At the same time, Flint is replacing water lines that go into homes, and hopes to hit 1,000 by the end of December. University of Michigan experts this week said lines at as many as 29,000 homes need to be replaced.
Edwards and his students, who were part of his presentation at the news conference, said 57 percent of 154 homes tested in November had no detectable level of lead, up from 44 percent in July. Only 8 percent hit that mark in August 2015, weeks before Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally acknowledged a disaster in Flint.
There has been "amazing progress," Edwards said.
He said the Flint crisis has been a wake-up call for the country, especially in cities with old pipes.
"You can never trust the water from those lead pipes," Edwards said. "If you have one, you should probably buy a lead filter to protect yourself. ... There is no amount of corrosion control you can do to protect your family."
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