Build a Kit: Water – Week 4

Week 4 - Build a Kit - Water

This week we are starting to build our preparedness kit! The first item to collect is water. The suggestion is to have one gallon of water per person per day for three days. In our house, we have 8 people so we need 8 gallons each day and would need 24 gallons for the full 3 days.

Frankly this has been one of the impediments to me building a kit. That’s a lot of water to buy and store! Also, we want to make sure we don’t have that much water sitting around forever if a disaster never occurs. So we decided we need to buy and manage the supply so it is always somewhat fresh. The decision then becomes what is the best way to buy water so we can do that.

If we buy it in one gallon containers then we need 24 of them. We can’t risk having tap water available during a disaster to fill empty containers so the safest solution is to buy them at the store and keep them in a designated spot. But the problem for our family with these containers is that they are not convenient for us to use and rotate through.

Another solution is to buy 16 oz. bottles in a case of 24. If one gallon is 128 fluid ounces then one case would be enough for one person for the full 3 days. For all eight people we would need eight cases. This seems like the best thing to do for our family since we normally buy and use a case a week and could just put the new case in the storage area and take out one of the older ones and keep rotating through the water in this manner. In eight weeks we would have replaced all the cases with new ones.

The next question was where to buy the water because I definitely did not want to spend a lot. We could just buy an extra case each week for eight weeks during our regular grocery shopping trip.  We shop at Meijer a lot – they sell a case of their brand of water for $2.79 a case so I would spend a total of $22.32. I also noticed Kroger has their brand of purified drinking water on sale for $2.29 for a case of 32 – 16.9 bottles. For a case of 32 bottles, I would only need 6 cases which would cost a total of $13.74, but there were special conditions at Kroger to get that price so I’m not sure I can do that.

Meijer Brand water on sale for $2.79 a case

At the end, we decided to make it easy on our family and budget, we will just add an extra case each week for 8 weeks since we still have 16 more weeks of building our kit anyway.


Is it Really Climate Change or is it Sewage?

Fox River Sept 2015
Fox River Sept 2015
Fox River Sept 2015

Lately I’ve seen several presentations which all include a similar slide with a graph like the generic one I created below. All the presenters then refer to the graph on the slide and make a statement similar to this: “and because of climate change you can see an increase in flooding over the last several decades.” But with no supporting data ever offered to attribute this trend to climate change, these graphs have instead made me think the cause is most likely sewage.

Graph - for example only; not based on actual data
Graph – for example only; not based on actual data

So how do I get sewage out of this? Well, first it helps to have a background in the history of water distribution and wastewater treatment in the U.S. While some major cities began piping water to homes in the 1800s, construction of water distribution systems didn’t began in most areas until the early 1900s.  At this time, wastewater in most areas was still discharged without central collection or treatment. According to Urban Wastewater Management
in the United States: Past, Present, and Future, “By 1905, more than 95 percent of the urban population discharged their wastewater untreated to waterways. Little changed over the first quarter of the twentieth century,
and in 1924 more than 88 percent of the population in cities of over
100,000 continued to dispose of their wastewater directly to waterways.” Because this led to a non-centralized system, sewage was sometimes sent directly to a stream from multiple outlets and sometimes dispersed over land to eventually make its way to a stream.

All this began to change in the mid-1900s. The same publication cited above also noted Congress enacted  “the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. The legislation provided for comprehensive planning, technical services, research, financial assistance, and enforcement. The Water Pollution Control Act was extended in 1952 and became permanent legislation in 1956.” There was a 1965 amendment to this act, and then eventually in 1972, Congress passed another Water Pollution Control Act.  The paper points out “the 1972 Act set the unprecedented goal of eliminating all water pollution by 1985 and authorized expenditures of $24.6 billion in research and construction grants.”

The result of this flurry of legislative activity between 1948 and 1972 resulted in the installation of centralized wastewater treatment systems in urban areas across the U.S. Today all discharges from each of these systems are regulated through permits from the USEPA primarily for water quality control. The discharges are typically introduced to a stream or other body of water directly from the treatment plant. Treatment discharges have the potential to range from less than 1 million gallons per day (MGD) to 1.44 billion gallons per day. That’s a lot of water entering our streams on a continuous basis which is why I immediately thought of wastewater as a cause when I saw the graph trending up after the mid 1900s.

Wastewater clarifier
Wastewater clarifier

Another reason I suspected wastewater had a major impact on stream flow was based on something I heard regarding the river flowing through our city. It seems in the past, people could walk across the river in the summer. As you can see in the photo of this river which I included at the start of this article, walking across the river today would most likely never be possible. In hearing this, there was no question in my mind that this was due to the wastewater discharges which now regularly flow into our river  and increase its base flow.

So during the last presentation I attended, I asked if impacts from wastewater discharges were considered or analyzed to see how much these flows are contributing to increased flooding. I explained if prior to installation of wastewater treatment plants, base flows of rivers could reduce to almost nothing, these streams would have had more capacity to handle rainfall events. But now with increased base flow due to wastewater discharges, which really started entering streams between 1948 and the 1980s and continue to do so and increase, the ability of streams to handle rainfall events has decreased. This could be a cause of rainfall events impacting greater areas and resulting in increased damages in suburban areas.  Also, as this USGS site shows, How Much Water Do We Use?, public water supply usage has increased over the years which would increase wastewater discharges even more. The presenter said they had never looked at the impacts of wastewater discharges.

As I continued to wonder about this, I looked online to see if others had thought of the impact of wastewater discharges on flooding events and discovered yes, they have. I even found studies which were done on the river in my community. H. Vernon Knapp, senior hydrologist with the Illinois State Water Survey, has developed at least two studies for the Fox River in Illinois which related to this topic. In his paper, the “Fox River Basin Streamflow Assessment Model: Hydrologic Analysis, October 1988,” he  analyzes the river flow taking into consideration impacts from effluent discharges from wastewater plants along the river. According to Knapp, in 1988, “approximately half of the low flows in the river upstream of these plants originated as effluent discharges from other facilities. Under these circumstances, the capacity of the Fox River to assimilate the additional effluents should be of concern.” His paper is also informative regarding other factors which can impact stream flow.

More recently Knapp developed a presentation, Effects of Future Water Demands and Climate Change on Fox River Water Availability. In it he states “watershed modeling suggests that the potential effect of climate change on Fox River low flows is considerably less than the effects of effluents and withdrawals, and thus does not substantially alter the water supply potential of the river.” He also notes “low flows in rivers such as the DesPlaines are almost 100% effluent.”

Perhaps not all increased flooding in all watersheds can be directly attributable to increased wastewater discharges since the 1940s, but I’m surprised it’s not always at least considered. Instead increased flooding events have been attributed to climate change, yet I could find no study which directly proves this. Most studies only look at the extent of flooding and make the leap with no specific data to back up the claim that this is due to increased precipitation brought on by climate change. A few studies I found also indicated there are too many factors other than just precipitation, such as antecedent water content, soil type, topography, etc., to conclusively make a direct correlation between increased rainfall and increased stream flow.

In the future, I hope to find more studies which do take into account the impacts of wastewater effluent on river flow and flood events to see if others have findings similar to Knapp’s.







Who Should Pay for Clean Water?

WaterfallThere's been an ongoing legal dispute in Iowa between the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) and drainage districts in three Iowa counties to decide who should pay the price to clean up polluted water. It's an interesting case for those of us who are involved in stormwater regulation and water treatment. And it is one more step in the ongoing struggle to determine how best to protect the environment and who is best positioned or most responsible to pay that cost.

Background on the DMWW Case

According to the final ruling document (No. 16-0076), DMWW "is a municipal water utility … that provides drinking water to an estimated half-million Iowans in the Des Moines area." Their water sources are primarily the Racoon and Des Moines Rivers. The watershed for the Racoon River is about 2.3 million acres in size and spans 17 counties in Iowa. DMWW stated in their complaint filed in federal court that "from 1995 to 2014, nitrate concentrations in the Racoon River at the DMWW intake points exceeded the 10 mg/L standard for drinking water at least 1636 days, or 24% of the time." Example concentrations mentioned in the complaint are 11.98 mg/L, 13.23 mg/L, 11.89 mg/L, 13.43 mg/L, and 12.56 mg/L. Therefore in order to provide water to its customers that meets drinking water regulations, DMWW incurred costs at its three treatment plants to reduce this level below the standard. DMWW also noted the need to expend funds in the near future to construct a new facility to handle the continuing elevated levels of nitrate.

In an effort that appears to force a reduction in or capture of these costs, DMWW filed a petition in federal court on March 16, 2015 (Trial Case No. C 15-4020-MWB). According to the Order Certifying Questions to the Supreme Court, the complaint basically alleges the drainage districts, or defendents, are "responsible for the increasing nitrate concentrations in the Racoon River." And because DMWW provides water to its customers from this river, which now has elevated levels of nitrate, it must incur costs it would not otherwise have to in order to reduce these concentrations below regulated standards.

On the defendent side, the drainage districts argued they were not the proper party for this lawsuit. They also indicate that other agencies of the state and federal government are responsible for regulating these matters – not a court of law. In the end, their bottom line was  "the existence and functions of drainage districts are so limited, the Iowa Supreme Court repeatedly, for over a century, has found districts not amenable to suit for damages, i.e., they are entitled to unqualified immunity."

Court Ruling in the DMWW Case

As reported in the online article of the Des Moines Register on Jan. 27, 2017, "the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Des Moines Water Works cannot win damages under the Iowa Constitution against drainage districts in the three counties it is suing." The article includes an embed of the ruling in case anyone is interested in reading the court's explanation for each count of the complaint. The article also mentions there will be another ruling in June of this year to decide if drainage districts should be considered polluters under the Clean Water Act and subject to those regulations including the need to obtain permits for their discharges.corn


Why does this matter?

Water receives contaminants from natural and man-made activity, and removing those contaminants is not free. In the end, someone has to pay the cost, but who? In the Des Moines area, the cost to remove contaminants to provide safe drinking water is currently paid for by the DMWW which most likely passes the costs onto its customers. If the city subsidizes its utility for this purpose then the taxpayers of the city are also paying. But the people paying for that cost are not directly responsible for putting nitrates in the water. Instead studies show elevated contaminants in receiving streams are primarily a result of agricultural operations. (An earlier article in this blog cites a report indicating results of this in Illinois). So should agricultural operators pay the costs to remove contaminants?

Who pays is really what is being decided by lawsuits like the one brought by DMWW. In that case the court's decision leaves those using the water to bear the costs. Whether that is because of the manner in which the complaint was written or the specific defendents named, I cannot really comment on since I am not a lawyer. Articles and opinions I've read on the case indicate the matter is best left to legislators and regulatory agencies. What does seem obvious to me is no matter which entity pays, the cost will always ultimately be passed along to the end user. So whether it is the water or stormwater utility paying or the farmer, it seems we will pay for it through increased water bills to treat our water, taxes to clean our waterways, or grocery bills for increased costs for food production. So really the question should perhaps be How Do We Want to Pay for Clean Water?



Water Unleaded Launch

Water Unleaded Window Cling Example

Water Unleaded Window Cling ExampleHaving worked for many years in the water industry, I've closely followed the recent events related to the lead controversy in Flint, Michigan. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've also probably seen the articles my partner and I posted about the topic. As we continued to discuss the topic over the last few months, we realized we could continue to offer through our blog information to people about minimizing their exposure to lead in their homes. But what could we do to help people be sure they are not exposed to lead once they ventured outside their home? So we started to wonder if it might be useful to have a place online where people could check to see the levels of lead in places they were thinking of visiting. Today we are launching that site – Water Unleaded – to serve as a type of drinking water quality registry focusing on the content of lead in drinking water. 

If you own or manage a business and are interested in listing information about lead in the drinking water at your site, we encourage you to head on over and check out the various listing methods. One basic listing can be created for free in the primary categories. If you are interested in posting test results or placing a listing in a lead-level category, a small fee applies. Memberships and paid listings are also available offering additional features. Some premium memberships allow the abilty to purchase a window cling to post at your place of business with verfication of test results.

If you provide testing services or other water related services or products, you can also create a listing. For a small fee, you can place your listing in the category representing the type of service or product you offer.

Because the site is newly launched, we are very interested in your feedback. Please let us know if you find any bugs or have any questions or suggestions. We are trying to provide a useful site to help all of us better understand lead levels in our drinking water and minimize our exposure. Thanks for checking it out!!!


Flint Water Testing Update & One Quick Easy Fix

Flint Water Analysis as of Feb. 13, 2016

One more week has gone by and there have been an additional 2,133 tests completed for lead and copper in Flint, Michigan. This brings the total number tested to date to almost one third of the 31,000 total users (number of total users from the city of Flint website). I've updated the pie chart showing little change in the percent of sites testing over the action limit for lead levels, now at 7% with a level of 9 ppb being the 90th percentile – well below the action level of 15.

Flint Water Analysis as of Feb. 13, 2016Fortunately I've noticed discussion of the situation in the media and online turning to a more well thought out direction with some realizing lead in the water is probably not the primary cause of the lead problem in Flint. People are also starting to realize Flint is no different than the majority of cities in the U.S., and all this testing is proving Flint is actually better off than many with respect to lead levels in their water.

One article, "Two, Three… Many Flints – America’s Coast-to-Coast Toxic Crisis," does a good job discussing the lead risks posed by paint and how this is not just a problem for Flint, Michigan. The article also points out how focusing too much on Flint to the exclusion of all else and not acknowledging that cities all across America are in the same or worse state will ignore the larger problem. And this will mean that people in other areas will continue to face this issue as they do now with little to no help or education.

And while I like that the article, "Fixing Our Broken Water Systems" also acknowledges the problem is all over, it's concerning that the media is still pushing for full replacement of service lines and other requirements that will be costly, time-consuming, and more importantly not immediately solve the problem. Another suggestion in the article was for each city to conduct a census of homes to find all the lead lines. Anyone who has worked in the water industry understands this would not be a foolproof method because the line at the main and into the home can be copper, but any of the length in between could be lead. The only way to know for sure if a line has any lead pipe is to dig it all up, and it is not feasible to do so just to get a census done.

Using a GIS to help analyze the problem

Instead it would be beneficial for cities to check their old records to see if they have anything showing service line installations. One city where I worked still had old permits for each installation indicating the size and material for each service line. If a city has cards like Flint, they can hire someone to input all that data into a GIS or into an EXCEL table with addresses and then upload it into a Google Fusion table and map it like I did for the test results below. Once the data is in a GIS, someone could overlay the information to see if the lead tests results match up with the lead line records. If age of residence is known, that could also be used and overlaid with the other data.

A quick, easy fix for communities with lead issues

While a GIS can help a water system get a better handle on lead in their system, it still doesn't actually solve the problem. Adding phosphates will address the lead in the water issue, and it is a fairly easy method to implement. But I understand Flint has already done this, so the lead levels in the water problem appears to be covered. But what about the lead paint and the community's need and desire to specifically focus on solving the problem for their lower income population? Since this population primarily lives in rental housing, the city of Flint, which already has a Rental Inspection Program, could easily add lead-free requirements to their rental program by amending their ordinance.

Basically, in order to rent a unit in Flint, the city could require the landlord to provide proof the service line to the unit was either installed originally with a non-lead pipe or that if originally lead, it had been replaced. Additionally, the landlord would need to prove the home did not test positive for lead paint. Only with this lead-free certification could a unit be approved as a rental. This places the burden of cost on the landlord who is a business owner and has an obligation to provide a safe living environment for people who are paying him or her money to live there. This requirement would also assist people who have lower incomes and who have little to no control to improve the building or facilities on which they rely. According to the U.S. Census 2014 Housing Selected Characteristics for Flint, Michigan, 45% of their housing stock are rentals. Enacting this amendment to their Rental Inspection Program would go a long way towards ensuring people in their community are living in lead free homes.


We are all Flint Michigan

Lead Pipe at Roman Bath in Bath, England

There are so many articles out there by now about the Flint, Michigan, water issue, I debated adding mine to the list. But I noticed there are some interesting aspects about what has happened that I've not seen discussed elsewhere. So I decided to go ahead and throw my voice in with the others. Also, I think it is important that someone from the industry point out what all of us know, but the public and media may not which is that in general,

…We are all Flint, Michigan.

I'm going to discuss this point first just because the other topics I want to touch on involve more technical information that probably won't interest most people. So why do I say we are all Flint, Michigan? First a short history of lead in the water industry:

In many countries throughout the world, including the United States, lead pipes were used for centuries to convey water.

As you can see below, lead lines were used at the Roman Baths which were built in 70 A.D. in Bath, England.

Lead Pipe at Roman Bath in Bath, England

So how did lead move from a commonly accepted material for water lines to the "do not use" list? Based on information in an article "The Lead Industry and Lead Water Pipes 'A Modest Campaign'" by Richard Rabin, MSPH, people started realizing in the late 1800s that maybe using lead for moving water around wasn't such a great idea. But even this knowledge didn't seem to immediately stop the use of lead for many more decades. According to the article:

"Although most cities in the United States were moving away from lead water pipes by the 1920s, it appears that this trend was not universal. National model plumbing codes approved lead into the 1970s and 1980s, and most water systems based their regulations on those codes. Federal guidelines and specifications also sanctioned lead pipes at least into the 1950s." 

Lead use in water systems was not banned until passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act which in Section 1417 prohibited the:

 “use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of (i) any public water system; or (ii) any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead free.”

Later, in 1991, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Lead and Copper Rule – a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This rule established the action level (AL) of 0.015 mg/L for Pb and 1.3 mg/L for Cu based on 90th percentile level of tap water samples. It's interesting to note that this rule also states an exceedance of the AL is not a violation but "can trigger other requirements that include water quality parameter (WQP) monitoring, corrosion control treatment (CCT), source water monitoring/treatment, public education, and lead service line replacement (LSLR)."

If you are wondering why it took so long to get lead banned as a material in the water system, you can read Rabin's article linked above. My point I'm making here is that lead was commonly used all over the place. Over the 30 plus years I've been designing, building, and helping operate water systems, I've come across a lot of lead lines used for water services – the pipes carrying water from the public water main to people's homes and businesses. And because lead was such a common material, I never noticed lead only used for lines running to homes in low income areas. I've also seen lead lines running to the homes of the wealthiest in the community and to all types of businesses.

What really makes the difference on what type of service line someone has is when it was installed.

If it was put in decades ago before copper became the preferred choice, then the line is probably lead. In Werner Troesken's book, The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster, he lists on page 11 in Table 1.1 50 of the major cities in the U.S. and the material used for service lines in the late 1900s for 46 of these cities. He notes 85% of the cities were using lead water pipes. Detroit, Michigan, is one of them, and the locations extend across our nation from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, Calif. For all I know the White House might still have a lead water line.  

Polyphosphate SystemSo if lead water lines are everywhere, just like in Flint, you might ask, how come we haven't dug up all these lines and replaced them? Well, replacing every lead line was definitely an option every community water supply regulated by the Lead and Copper rule could consider. However, I haven't heard of many that chose that alternative. Probably because the cost and disruption to the community is potentially tremendous and not cost effective compared to other solutions. Also, in many communities, ordinances place ownership of these water service lines with the property owner, so few communities wanted to have to go to their water customers and force them to put in new water lines. And even if the water supplier chose to pay for everything, the cost would ultimately be passed along anyway to customers through higher rates, and the property owner would still need to go through the disruption of having their yard torn up. So many community water supplies chose an alternative which involves adding chemicals like polyphosphates to the water to coat the pipes and prevent the leaching of lead and copper into the water. For most, it's really the most cost effective solution, and as you can see from the photo here, it's a fairly simple setup.

So if we are like Flint, are we too at risk?

While I said all that to try to let people know Flint is not different than most other cities across our nation with respect to its water piping, it is important to remember, not everyone, including everyone in Flint, is at risk. Based on the lead and copper water testing results I saw from Flint, it seems the results showed a little over 10% of the sites tested over the Action Limit which was similar to results from the supply systems for which I worked. So for those in Flint, this would mean if they do not have a lead service line, they are probably at a low risk of having lead levels above the action level. And for those of you who do not live in Flint and have a lead water line, if your community water supply is in compliance with the Lead and Copper rule, levels of lead in your water would probably not exceed the action levels noted above. However, to be sure, you could always contact your water supplier and ask them to test your water for lead and copper.

Also, be cautious of blaming drinking water for lead in children when it is more likely to be lead paint

 Prevent Lead Poisoning. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts! Click here…If your community is going to analyze the lead levels in children and compare them over a specific time frame to determine if there is a lead problem, keep in mind the primary source of lead in children is not from drinking water, but from lead paint. So a true study would develop methodology that includes an analysis of each child's home environment over that time period. I tried to find the study or report from the pediatrician in Flint who analyzed the levels of lead in children in the area, but could not find any document summarizing her methodology, analysis, and testing to see if she had taken into account exposure to lead paint. Particularly if she has made a correlation between elevated levels and income levels of children who test positive for lead, I thought it would seem more likely lead paint would be the cause of that than would water. Not having found anything verifying she used the proper methodology, I have to wonder if there is a lead problem in Flint that will not be solved by addressing the drinking water because it is actually a lead paint problem. As the site states, "just a few particles of dust from lead-based paint are enough to poison a child."

And now for the technical discussion…

People familiar with the Flint story probably won't be surprised to hear that one of the main  problems we had with a plant where I used to work was that the engineer who designed it based the treatment design on the parameters of the existing water supply. For almost a hundred years, the community had drawn water from a shallow acquifer lying under about seven acres of land. As part of the water plant construction, the city had decided to expand their supply by digging a new well. This well was located outside of the immediate area of the historic well field, but because it was in the same acquifer, the engineer assumed the water quality would be the same. First lesson I learned from this project:

Always test the water quality parameters of a new water supply – preferably before committing to its use

The other wells had about 0.5 parts of manganese while this new well had 3 parts iron. Now if you are in the industry, you can imagine how the plant performed if it was designed to treat 0.5 parts of manganese and now had to also oxidize 3 parts iron. Iron oxidizes first so when that new well was running, there wasn't enough ozone, which we were using as the oxidant, to oxidize everything. Guess what we had to do? We pre-chlorinated to assist in the oxidation. And guess what the extra chlorine added ahead of the ozonators did? Increased the corrosiveness of the water.

So it seems like Flint built their new plant because they had been receiving treated water from Detroit then decided to enter into an agreement with other communities to pull water from the lake. And what I am wondering is did the plant designer set up the treatment system for the lake water without knowing or ignoring the river water would be used in the interim? If that was the case and the water quality is different between the two sources, this could be causing many of the issues they are having with corrosion. If changes had to be made to the process to address the change in the quality of the water supply, there could be impacts to the finished water quality that were not anticipated in the design.

Another issue with a change in water supply is that it can change the anticipated pH for which the plant was designed. And pH definitely has an impact on the performance of the treatment process. If pH is too low, the water can be more corrosive; if pH is too high, certain substances like calcium carbonate can fall out of solution, bind to the pipes, and reduce flow. Below is the inside of a pipe in which substances came out of solution and adhered to the pipe.

Pipe coated with calcium carbonate

I also looked at the treatment reports for Flint's water plant to see if there seemed to be anything unusual with their process that could affect the corrosiveness of the water. This is important to look into because replacing water lines may lower the risk of lead in drinking water supplying homes and businesses, but it will not improve the water quality. One thing I noticed is that according to Flint's Consumer Confidence Reports for 2014, they are using ozone for taste and odor control and as a pretreatment disinfection. Because of my past experience I wondered if their use of ozone was impacting the corrosiveness of their water. 

In our system, which used ozone as an oxidant (a photo of one of our ozonators is shown below) and required the need to pre-chlorinate, we initially experienced the formation of nitrates/nitrites. The level never exceeded the regulated amount, but it still caused problems in the system. Unfortunately we had to treat the problem with more chlorine until the nitrates/nitrite formation was under control. Fortunately for Flint, it doesn't appear this is an issue, but it is something to be on the lookout for.


We also noticed that in addition to the corrosive water causing a change in the level of lead and copper from the levels tested prior to the plant going online, there were many failures of metal-based parts in equipment exposed to water. In particular, the impellers of our pumps and the pumps in the fire trucks were degraded to the point they had to be replaced. I am not sure if Flint has experience any of this, but it is also something to monitor. Fortunately the addition of the phosphates and the addition of chemicals to increase our pH slightly seemed to elminate this problem for us.

Another issue that came up was raised by industries in our city that relied upon our water for their operation. A change in water quality can make a significant difference for these companies not only in the successful operation of their own process, but in their costs. I suspect this became an issue in Flint because I read a report indicating one of the industries had to be supplied with different water. Changing lead lines will not address this issue. Instead the treatment system needs to be analyzed and the water quality addressed. 

In the end, what all of the problems at our plant taught me was that the design and operation of a water treatment process is highly dependent on a strong knowledge of water chemistry. And over the years when I've talked with operators starting up new plants, I've found they are all struggling to solve the same issues again and again. And it all seems to be caused by the designer ignoring water chemistry. Engineers are typically the people designing water plants, but most engineers are not chemists. Which has always made me wonder

Why doesn't the EPA require a water chemist to sign off on new plant designs?

Information about the source water used in the design, the use of ozone, the pH and perhaps even temperature of the water, and the apparent use of high amounts of chlorine could indicate something might not be right with the treatment process chosen or implemented in Flint. And while I cannot say without a doubt that these are the issues impacting the corrosiveness of Flint's water, they are clues that tell me someone who knows water chemistry should be analyzing their treatment process. Because the government can throw hundreds of millions of dollars at this and everyone's pipes can be replaced, but in the end, the root of the problem might not be addressed which could be the use of the wrong treatment process for that particular water supply.