Water lead level falls below federal limit in Flint

In this March 21 photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint. Environmental officials announced Tuesday that Flint’s water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit. (AP file photo)

LANSING — Flint’s water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit, a key finding that Michigan environmental officials said Tuesday was good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have been grappling with the man-made water crisis.

The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December, below the “action level” of 15 ppb, according to a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Flint’s mayor. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period.

Based on the sample of 368 residential sites, Flint’s lead levels are again comparable to other similarly sized U.S. cities with older infrastructure.

“This is good news and the result of many partners on the local, county, state and federal levels working together to restore the water quality in the City of Flint,” the department’s director, Heidi Grether, said in a statement. “The Flint water system is one of the most monitored systems in the country for lead and copper, and that commitment will remain to ensure residents continue to have access to clean water.”

Residents, whose mistrust in government remains high nearly three years after a fateful switch of Flint’s water source in April 2014 while the city was under state management, are being told to continue using faucet filters or bottled water because an ongoing mass replacement of pipes could spike lead levels in individual houses. The replacement of the lines is expected to take years.