Water testing cheaters! Now that’s not something you’d expect so close to a disaster which has affected thousands of lives. While many cities in the world are contemplating using high density materials and tungsten polymers to reduce the risk of lead poisoning, 33 cities in the US resorted to cheating while testing water for dangerous levels of lead. In fact, 21 cities resorted to the same methods which led to one of the worst lead related disasters in US history and prompted charges against 3 government employees!
The Flint crisis began when the city decided to resort to cost-cutting measures and switched its water supply to a polluted river. The issue went out of hand due to faulty tests and delays in health emergency response and the lack of lead replacement strategies. An investigation carried out by the Guardian reported that major cities such as Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago were also using similar testing mechanisms to the one that sparked the entire lead poisoning issue in Flint.
Over the course of the investigation, the Guardian scoured over a number of documents and realized that officials in 2 cities got water safety checked in their homes, two states asked for more time to remove possible results with high levels of lead and 33 cities used methods which could possibly underestimate the amount of lead found in drinking water.
“If they cannot be trusted to protect little kids from lead in drinking water, what on Earth can they be trusted with?”, says Marc Edwards, the scientist responsible for discovering the flint crisis.
The methods in question involve a small pool of households that are checked for lead poisoning once every 3 years. Residents are requested to collect water samples for testing, but the way in which water samples are chosen can have a major impact on the amount of lead being detected. According to the EPA, these methods are entirely against its guidelines, and if Flint is anything to go by, such methods should be classified as criminal acts.
Philadelphia has been accused of using the worst testing methods in the country. Its testers were asked to pre-flush pipes, remove the aerators and pour water into the bottle slowly, all of which could help to under-represent the levels of lead. Documents also prove that testing was avoided in a number of high-risk homes. Detroit and New Hampshire had also resorted to removing samples with high lead levels, although Detroit seems to have phased out testing distortions. These revelations come at a time when thousands of children suffer from growth and development problems due to lead poisoning in Flint, a time when detecting lead poisoning in its early phases and using adequate lead replacement measures is so important.
The investigations also revealed that some cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville and Jacksonville do follow the correct guidelines set out by the EPA and several more such as Buffalo, Boston and Mount Pleasant have already shown intent to change their protocols. Chicago stopped using pre-flushing and aerator removal methods by the year 2012.
All may not be lost as many cities are still trying to become a safer place for their residents despite having to cope with the aging infrastructure and stringent budgets, but hopefully the Guardian investigation proves to be an eye-opener for the ones who have been accused of avoiding the use of lead replacement strategies or simply pushing dirt under the carpet.