For the better part of two years now, the city water flowing into homes and businesses in Flint, Michigan has been unsafe to drink. No doubt you’ve heard about the many contaminants in the water, particularly lead, which is a powerful neurotoxin, linked to health problems such as brain damage and learning disabilities, especially in children.
The way the lead got into the water supply through Flint, Michigan’s pipes is a compelling story politically, socially, chemically, as well as environmentally. MSNBC and EcoWatch did a story about it you may find interesting.
The original water supply for the city of Flint was Lake Huron, which was safe, clean water, even though it ran through Flint Michigan’s aging city water pipes. In April 2014, the city decided to switch to the local Flint River as a temporary and cheaper water source while a new city water service system was completed. But because the water from Flint River was extremely corrosive (years of industrial chemical by-product run-off and illegal dumping), and because the water service lines in Flint contained lead, the caustic Flint River water caused the lead from the old piping to leach into the water supplied to Flint households and businesses. The result was a huge, multi-million dollar disaster with lifelong health ramifications for the city.
A Facebook message from water activist Erin Brockovich last week said that Flint can be added to the list of hundreds of cities, towns and community water systems that are failing. Bottom line, they have made many bad choices … yet (there) are real solutions.
It ís not new news that copper and lead water pipes are especially prone to corrosion through chemical reactions that occur when the chemicals in the water passing thru the pipes come into contact with the inner surface of the pipe. Corrosion breaks down the metals and these toxic elements end up in the water supply. And even though copper pipes are more commonplace today than older lead pipes, copper pipes are usually soldered together, and older solder contains lead.
Even PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, the preferred choice of many cities and neighborhoods, is made from a plastic and vinyl, can be a problem since the joint glue used commonly contains strong, active solvents.
The bottom line is that cities should use water pipes made of stainless steel. Stainless steel will not degrade over time and solder is not used to link them together for installation. Stainless steel waterways are strong, durable and lightweight, made to last 100 years or more, without ever breaking down or leaching chemicals, regardless of the quality of the water flowing thru it.
Bottom line, The Flint Michigan story is a parable. Using cheaper source materials is often not in the best interest for the contractor or the property owner. Thinking long-term, best practices pay out in the end.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about stainless steel pipes please visit our web site.