British newspaper The Guardian has concluded a damning investigation into how some cities in America apparently attempt to conceal how much lead really is in the water, by employing “cheats” when testing.
The investigation revealed that 33 cities across 17 states have used methods of testing water that possibly conceal dangerous levels of lead.
“They make lead in water low when collecting samples for EPA compliance, even as it poisons kids who drink the water. Clearly, the cheating and lax enforcement are needlessly harming children all over the United States.”
~ Marc Edwards, Virginia Tech Scientist
“Cheats” and practices designed to conceal concerning results include:
- Requesting that testers run water through the tap before the test, known as ‘pre-flushing’ which affects the amount of lead found in the water sample.
- Instructions to fill sample bottles very slowly as slow-running water dislodges less lead.
- Water officials asked employees to test water safety in their own homes.
- Some cities claimed that they did not know the location of lead pipes and cited “security risk” when refusing to release a map showing the locations of lead pipes.
- Testers removed aerators from spouts before running water, another practice that can reduce lead content readings.
- Failed to provide samples from the required number of homes where lead piping was present.
Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee are on the list of cities that demonstrated poor testing methods.
“Two states – Michigan and New Hampshire – advised water departments to give themselves extra time to complete tests so that if lead contamination exceeded federal limits, officials could re-sample and remove results with high lead levels.”
~ The Guardian
Better Transparency To Come?
In February, the EPA clarified that employing lead reducing methods was in breach of the guidelines governing water testing. Following the recent charges brought against officials in Flint, for reasons including that they “did improperly manipulate the collection of water samples,” the one saving grace is that the scandal might force better testing and more transparency across the industry.
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