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By Friday, officials should know where most of Flint’s lead service lines are

Feb 2, 2016

Flint’s water distribution supervisor, Robert Bincsik, says many of the city's records on where lead service lines are located are on these old handwritten index cards in a few filing cabinets.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A team of people at University of Michigan’s Flint campus is almost done converting old, paper records into digital records that show which homes have lead service lines. The team has been working on it for a couple of weeks now, and should have the information by the end of this week.

State and federal officials have been after the information because they need it to help determine when Flint’s water will be safe to drink again.

Marty Kaufman heads a team of people at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus that is working to digitize the paper records.

“Most of the information that we saw was on 3x5 cards that were written in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in pencil. So a lot of the information was smeared,” Kaufman said.

Luckily, Kaufman says much of that information written in pencil was transcribed onto parcel maps.

He says thousands of records are missing.

But, he says, officials should be able to figure out what a home’s water line is made of without digging up the pipe.

“That’s a fairly simple test but it should be done by a professional,” he said.

Using a blunt object and a magnet, these professionals should be able to go into a person’s home, find part of the service line, and run a brief test on it.

Once officials know where lead service lines are, they should be able to figure out which homes need to be tested to gauge the overall safety of the city’s water. Homes with lead service lines should be included in calculating the overall water safety because that’s where lead is more likely to show up in people’s tap water.

Listen below to the Stateside interview with Martin Kaufman, professor and chair of the U-M Flint Earth and Resource Science Department and and the initiative’s supervisor.

Audio Pending...