The Village of Birch Run is paying close attention to what unfolded in Flint, Michigan, and our thoughts are with all those who are struggling without access to safe and reliable water in their homes. In North America, no one should have to question the safety of water at the tap. Flint underscores that our first job is to protect the families we serve. Those of us involved in managing, cleaning and delivering water share a solemn obligation to protect public health. We do not have first-hand information about what occurred in Flint, but this much seems clear: When Flint switched its water supply source, it did not take the required steps to manage water chemistry. The new water caused lead to leach from service lines and home plumbing – lead that ended up in water coming out of the taps. Lead does not come from the treatment plants and water mains; it comes from lead service lines running between the water main in the street and the home, and from plumbing inside the home. This kind of incident is unlikely here because drinking water is tested and monitored on a continuous basis to ensure that it meets or exceeds all federally mandated requirements governing its quality. We are not content to simply comply with regulations. We observe the letter of the law and embrace the spirit of it. There is positive movement in the national approach to eliminating lead risks. The U.S. federal regulation that address lead in drinking water – the Lead and Copper Rule – is currently under revision. The National Drinking Water Advisory Council, which advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has recommended that utilities should create plans for removal of all lead service lines within their systems, with a shared responsibility between the utility and their customers. It also advised that utilities should engage in more outreach to customers on lead, including assisting them with testing their water. If you are a property owner, there are steps you can take to address potential risks from lead in water. Lead service lines are typically only present in older homes, but older brass faucets with lead content can be in newer homes. A certified plumber can tell you for sure if you have a lead service line, check for lead solders in your internal pipes and look for fixtures containing lead. The only way to know with certainty if you have lead at the tap is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. If you are concerned that your family is at risk, the Village of Birch Run can help you find a lab to test for lead. There are other steps you can take to protect your family, including purchasing a certified water filter to remove lead, making sure you flush out the lines after a period of stagnation in order to get fresh water that is coming from the main, and avoiding consuming water from the hot water tap, where lead is more likely to be present. You can find more guidance on www.DrinkTap.org.
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