The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has been all over the headlines. How careless can lawmakers and administration get to put the city's entire population at risk? It's frustrating, and has been so awesome to see the nation react, including celebrities. But the question now is can it happen here.  After all, like in Flint, here in Cedar Rapids we have an industrial background, with many factories lining the Cedar River, which feeds our drinking water.

In a word, YES, it can happen!

But you're not asking the right question. Things can always happen. Thankfully here in Eastern Iowa, this situation most likely will not happen.

City officials were recently asked this very question, especially as all eyes are on Flint, and the above mentioned comparisons were raised. They admit there is lead piping being used throughout the city, as that was part of standards years ago. However, when those are encountered during pipe breaks or other projects, they are typically replaced with copper pipes. The biggest concern would be with homes built before 1950 who might have lead pipes, although they aren't necessarily carrying toxic water.

Still concerned? Here's a couple things to note according to the city:

  • The water is tested at 3 different points including where it's pulled from, as it exits the water plant, and where it is distributed at pre-selected "high-risk" locations.
  • All water goes through a 12 hour treatment process at the plant
  • 1,400 quality tests are performed on the water each month
  • Highest risk pipes are tested yearly, which included 51 pipes last year
  • The federal standard is a lead rate of 15 micrograms per liter, of which the highest testing concern pipe last year showed well under that at roughly 12 micrograms per liter.

What happened in Flint was due to a breakdown in preventative measures such as these in a cost-cutting move.  The water entering the system there was so contaminated that it started to corrode the lead pipes, leading to the crisis. Cedar Rapids is has not made these cost cuts. In fact, the city spends $80,000-$100,000 annually on a corrosion inhibitor. Good to know.

So no, what happened in Flint will almost certainly not happen here. But if you have specific concerns, you can call the water department at 319-286-5900.

[VIA Cedar Rapids Gazette]