In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan began to source drinking water from the Flint River. Previously, the water had been sourced from treated Detroit Water and Sewage Department Water (drawn from Lake Huron and the Detroit River). City officials failed to treat the Flint River water with corrosion inhibitors, and when the water began flowing through older pipes with traces of lead, the corrosive water caused the lead to infiltrate drinking water. Lead levels spiked dangerously high, leading to a full-blown public health crisis, with President Obama declaring a federal state of emergency.
Many communities currently have a drinking water supply that is delivered by decaying lead piping. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service lines that are at least partially lead. The majority of these are found in the Midwest and Northeast United States. Consuming lead-saturated water can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can be particularly harmful to children, causing permanent learning disabilities and in some cases, even death.
The latest reported case of lead in a city’s water supply has occurred in Philadelphia, PA. A class action lawsuit has been filed in response to claims of lead exposure in the water supply. Local Philadelphia resident, Eleni Delopoulos filed a lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit alleges that the city has engaged in “deceptive, reckless and unethical” practices when testing the water for lead exposure.
Delopoulos claims that although the city does follow proper EPA guidelines when testing for lead and copper exposure, they test in a way that does not properly reflect the supply system as a whole. As it stands now, there are currently over 60,000 homes in Philadelphia that receive their water from lead pipes. Over time these pipes have decayed, and have caused lead to permeate the water supply. Delopoulos claims that this hasn’t been reported due to the city’s tactics when testing. Making use of strategies such as diluting test pools, and finding ways to generate false positives.
Philadelphia, in response, has claimed that their testing methods are fine. The city also claims that the water supply is lead-free, however, this may not be the case. As the city performs maintenance and replacement on its supply, they may actually be causing a huge problem. Construction disturbs the lead piping set in place and wears down the anti-corrosive agents lining the pipes. As it continues, lead slowly makes its way into the water supply, resulting in lead-saturated water for residents. Philadelphia has recently come under fire regarding testing procedures earlier this year and has been reported as being “worse than Flint” when it comes to testing. The lawsuit claims that the city was particularly negligent during its construction on water mains, and allowed more lead to make its way into the water supply.