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MAP: Month to month lead testing results in Flint

Apr 1, 2016

Random water testing is still ongoing in Flint, Michigan. The state of Michigan first started offering free water testing to people in Flint last October.

Some people started to take advantage early on, but this free testing didn’t really take off until January 2016. That was when the story of what was happening in Flint really got a lot of attention. And that’s when a lot people in the city began to realize that their water could be affected.

The tests help people understand what's going on in their home.

But even if results come in at zero (green dots), experts say Flint residents should still install a water filter.

As my colleagues Rebecca Williams and Lindsey Smith reported, Flint's compromised water distribution system means lead flakes can break free and end up in the water at any time:

"The way we look at this, Flint's water right now is not safe to drink," [the EPA's Mark] Durno says. "Even if they get a zero result, we acknowledge the water is not safe to drink until we can show the entire system is recovered."

And that's what we're all waiting on.

Proof that the water system has recovered in Flint – at least to the point where the system was prior to the botched water source switch in April 2014.

The EPA's on-scene coordinator, Mark Durno, says the EPA is still reviewing the data it's collecting. EPA officials in Flint plan to get together with officials from MDEQ and Virginia Tech's Marc Edwards in the next few weeks to compare notes. 

"We plan to provide a status update sometime in mid-April regarding the progress of drinking water and pipe treatment," - the EPA's Mark Durno.

"We plan to provide a status update sometime in mid-April regarding the progress of drinking water and pipe treatment," says Durno.

Part of the data they'll look at are results from the random sampling going on in the city – more than 17,000 samples and counting.

We mapped those results starting with the month of October. That’s the same month the city switched back to Lake Huron water from Detroit.

Here's how we broke down the lead results:

  • 0 ppb - no lead detected in the drinking water
  • 1-4 ppb - the EPA deems this range as acceptable
  • 5-14 ppb - exposure is a concern, but still below an EPA "federal action level"
  • 15-149 ppb - a range above the federal action level for lead, but can be treated with filters
  • 150 and above - a range above what most water filters are rated to treat – however, research has found that water filters can be effective above this range (read more here)

Here are the month-to-month breakdowns:

The data we looked at show a slight uptick in results 15 ppb and above. The MDEQ's "sentinel site" testing shows a slight decrease. No conclusions are being drawn yet. Soon we'll hear about results from Virginia Tech's testing, and from the EPA's tests. 

In the meantime, see the interactive map below for the random testing results in Flint.

Green dots mean no lead. Purple dots are results 150 ppb and above.

You can click on the "visible layers" box to see each month's results, and you can see a full version of the map here

*This post was last updated on 4/14/16 to reflect updated numbers for March.