Flint residents hope pipe flushing will help get lead out
Foul-smelling water that came through the tap of David G. Mata Sr.'s house in Flint last year turned his sinks and toilets a brownish-orange color and nearly killed all of his plants.
The 68-year-old retiree quickly stopped using it, relying instead on bottled water.
"I didn't realize how valuable water was until I didn't have it any more," said Mata, who added that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to fix the "bad water" problem that has bedeviled the two-story dwelling -- his family's home for six decades.
That includes going along with the state and city's suggestion that he and other residents run cold water for 10 minutes a day to help Flint recover from its lead-tainted water crisis. The practice is designed to improve the quality of water coming from the tap by flushing out loose lead particles that may linger in pipes and to help coat the pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the water.
Flint, which has about 100,000 residents, is recovering from using the Flint River for 18 months without corrosion controls, causing lead to leach from pipes. The city switched to another source in October.
Experts last month warned that people leery of using the water weren't running enough of it to rid the system of toxic lead, slowing the efforts to clean out lead deposits and recoat the pipes and plumbing to make them safe again.
"Flushing the pipes will help reduce the particulate lead, but the long-term success of this action, along with the establishment of a protective coating on the pipes, is also dependent upon how corroded the pipe surfaces were when the measures were initially applied," said Marty Kaufman, who chairs the University of Michigan-Flint's Earth and Resource Science department.
Kaufman likens the situation to "painting a wall in your house which is not smooth."
Mata, who worked for years at a now-defunct auto parts assembly plant in Flint, said he hopes the pipe-flushing plan works and is happy to give it a try.
Plus, as he pointed out, it won't cost him anything.
The state is paying all Flint water bills in May to encourage the practice. Gov. Rick Snyder calls it "a free water month."
Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver have promoted the effort at appearances and through advertising.
Like Mata, Flint resident Tammy Brewer is giving it a shot, but she is less confident in its potential effectiveness.
"No more will I believe any government, anything. Bottled water -- that's what I believe in," said the 54-year-old Brewer, a lifelong Flint resident who runs the faucets daily in the bathroom and kitchen.
Brewer says she's doing it "because you have to try everything."
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