A crew of scientists has given Flint residents the OK to bathe and shower with the city’s tap water.
The Virginia Tech Research Team announced Tuesday that results from their latest round of testing show the municipal water has improved substantially and is now safe for personal cleansing.
Lead professor Marc Edwards, University of Massachusetts professor David Reckhow, and Shawn McElmurry, associate professor at Wayne State University, gathered for a morning press conference to discuss the data results. The experts told reporters that byproducts from disinfectants were at normal levels and the population of Legionnaires’-causing bacteria has steadily declined. Though lead levels have also decreased in recent months, scientists advised residents not to use unfiltered water for food preparation and drinking.
The same team of Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering professors and students helped expose the water scandal last July.
Citizens of the predominately Black, lower-income town have relied on bottled water for daily sustenance due to the toxic levels of lead present in the local water supply. The highly publicized crisis dates back to April 2014, when a city manager switched the main water source from Detroit to the Flint River in an emergency stop-gap measure. Michigan’s environmental quality department failed to instate anti-corrosion treatments that would have prevented lead from leaching off the city’s aged piping system.
Water Defense, an activist group led by actor Mark Ruffalo, raised questions about the water’s safety in February when its own testing found traces of previously unidentified chemicals in household sinks, bathtubs and showers. Water samples taken from four private residences and one hotel room tested positive for chloroform, methylene chloride and other trihalomethanes — all volatile elements.
Edwards and colleagues said the group’s study was a false alarm that had inspired fear and panic in the community.
“The people of Flint have every right to demand to know exactly what is in their water and to maintain a certain degree of skepticism based on what they have been through,” Ruffalo said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press.
The actor added the group’s intentions were to highlight the need for more testing and “a proper epidemiological study,” not to encourage residents to stop bathing or showering with Flint water.
The city of Flint officially hired Edwards to lead its clean-up efforts in January.