Flint Drinking Water FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions About Flint Drinking Water
A. Yes. Your skin does not absorb lead in water. If plain tap water has too much lead, bathing and showering is still safe for children and adults. It is safe even if the skin has minor cuts or scrapes. Never drink bathwater, and do not allow babies and children to drink bathwater. Rashes have many causes, but no medical link between rashes and unfiltered water has been found. If you have concerns, call your primary care doctor and call 2-1-1.
Q. Is it safe to wash dishes and do laundry with unfiltered water?
A. Yes, but dry them after. Wash dishes, bottles, and toys with unfiltered soapy water. Dry before use. Lead in water will not be absorbed by porcelain, metal, or glass. Clothes washed in plain tap water will not contain enough lead to cause harm.
Q. Will water contaminated with lead hurt me or my children?
A. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. It may not have obvious symptoms, so people might not realize they have too much lead in their bodies. For young children, exposure to lead can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities. The only way to know if you have lead in your body is to get tested.
Q. We (residents) have been getting information on how to use water safely from many different organizations, and sometimes that information is conflicting. Who should we listen to?
A. EPA is coordinating with the city, state, and other federal agencies to respond to all of the issues with Flint's water. Until further notice, EPA advises that residents should always use a water filter.
Q. I had the water in my home tested and the result came back with low/no detectable lead. Can I stop drinking filtered or bottled water?
A. No. Your low lead test result is encouraging, but the results are from a specific sample showing a snapshot in time. So it doesn’t mean that your water is always safe to drink. There is still a citywide water emergency in Flint and everyone, including pets, should drink filtered or bottled water until further notice.
Q. What is being done to make sure everyone is getting the information and resources including minority, immigrant, and other at-risk communities?
A. Many federal and state agencies in the response are going to community meetings, speaking to the media, and distributing information as they sample water on where you may pick up a filter or bottled water. EPA also provides translation of information to Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic for residents and has community involvement coordinators regularly contacting residents and community groups.
Q. Will EPA change any of its policies based on what happened in Flint?
A. EPA is actively considering potential revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule. The primary goal is to improve the effectiveness of the rule in reducing exposure to lead and copper from drinking water. EPA anticipates proposed rule changes will be published in 2017. In the more immediate future, EPA will be issuing clarifications on how samples should be collected based on concerns raised by Flint residents and others.
Q. How long will it take to get my results once EPA samples my water?
A. EPA will call residents with their preliminary sampling results before posting it to the interactive maps. It is estimated that preliminary data will be available about 14 days after sample collection. Final data which has been through EPA’s quality assurance checks is estimated to be available 20 days after sample collection.
Q. How long will EPA’s response team be sampling the water in Flint?
A. EPA will be here as long as it takes to make sure the water is safe to drink. EPA’s recent order also requires the city to provide the appropriate level of staffing and training to ensure that the water plant and distribution system can be effectively operated and maintained.
Q. When will the water be safe to drink?
A. EPA advises residents to continue using water filters or bottled water until EPA makes a determination that the corrosion control treatment has been optimized.
Q. The filters being handed out by the city are only rated to filter out 150 ppb or lower of lead. Many have lead results higher than that. Does that mean the filters are not working?
A. EPA continues to recommend that Flint residents use NSF-certified filters in their homes to remove lead. EPA’s latest sampling results confirm that these filters are effective in removing lead from drinking water, even at higher levels.
Q. Will whole house filters or reverse-osmosis filters be offered to residents?
A. A whole-home filter may not be effective because it does not treat water that flows through interior pipes, brass, and leaded-solder, which can contaminate the water with lead even after it has passed through a whole-home filter.
Any water treatment filter used should be NSF-53 certified to remove lead and should be located at the end of the plumbing right before the tap, so that all water that flows through home plumbing is treated.
Q. What other chemicals are being tested in the water? I've heard there is more that we need to be concerned with than lead.
A. EPA is testing the water in Flint for many different chemical contaminants and is also conducting other water quality testing to comprehensively evaluate the overall safety of the water from lead, copper, microbes, disinfection byproducts and other heavy metals.
Q. How does EPA decide what houses they want to sample?
A. EPA is working with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and city to identify homes with lead service lines. Sampling was conducted on homes with high levels of lead in unfiltered water as possible locations with lead service lines. EPA is sampling homes to make sure filters are working, as well as locations where residents request sampling, and where rash complaints have been reported.
Q. Are the old filter cartridges recyclable? Where can we recycle them?
A. Yes. The State of Michigan recommends residents bring their used cartridges to the location where they got their filter to recycle the old cartridges and to get new ones.
Q. How can we recycle used water bottles?
A. Empty water bottles can be taken to any of the recycling stations that have been set up around the city or where you picked up bottled water. The city and state can make arrangements to pick them up from the disabled by calling 2-1-1. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/flintwater
Q. Do the testers that come with pitcher filters test for lead (TDS meters)?
A. Total Dissolved Solid (TDS) meters or test strips measure minerals in water, not lead—so they will not give you an accurate test of your water. The safest choice is to get your water tested. Call 2-1-1 or visit www.epa.gov/flint to find out where to get your water tested.
EPA established the Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force in October 2015 to provide the Agency’s technical expertise through regular dialogue with designated officials from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Flint. The Task Force is led by the Region 5 Acting Regional Administrator and assists with developing and implementing a plan to secure water quality, including measures to optimize corrosion control.
On January 16, 2016, President Obama signed an emergency declaration ordering federal assistance to support state and local response efforts in Flint, Michigan. As part of an interagency effort being led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), EPA has deployed a response team to Flint to conduct sampling and analysis that will help state and local leaders identify the scope of contamination and design and execute a plan for mitigation.
How are sampling sites chosen?
- information about sites that are suspected or confirmed to have lead plumbing,
- households where lead-levels are known to be elevated,
- locations where water may lie stagnant before use,
- and other information about areas that may pose a higher risk or concern to the community.
When will residents receive sampling results?
Preliminary results are communicated verbally within 3 weeks of sampling. Final, quality assured results are delivered via mail 4-5 weeks after sampling.
How long will EPA’s response team be sampling the water in Flint?
EPA is committed to providing water quality information to support the restoration of safe drinking water for all Flint residents. EPA will continue its response efforts as part of the broader Federal interagency team, and in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) until the job is done.
Is the State of Michigan involved in this response effort?
Yes. An EPA enforcement order requires that the State of Michigan collect samples and post data to a publicly available website. EPA is coordinating closely with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on the response in Flint.