Flint Map Shows Progress, Reveals Where Lead Likely Remains – Natural Resources Defense Council

25June 2020

New map files progress of pipeline removal program and provides homeowners crucial details to safeguard their health

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The Flint Water Service Line Map reveals the recognized or most likely material of the pipes at homes in Flint, Michigan after almost four years of replacements. In May of 2019, NRDC's Flint team and information scientists Jake Abernethy (Georgia Tech) and Eric Schwartz (University of Michigan) were going over how to finest share the details we had about Flint's service lines– the pipes that carry tap water from big circulation pipes in the street to specific homes– with the Flint community. The information came from the City of Flint's assessment of countless water pipes as part of a program to find and remove lead. Flint's pipeline replacement program is the result of an unmatched 2017 settlement in a claim brought by NRDC and its regional partners in reaction to the Flint Water Crisis. The crisis began when city officials began utilizing the Flint River for the city's drinking water however failed to follow proper water treatment procedures. This decision led to destructive water streaming for over two years through the city's distribution system, triggering result in seep from service lines and pollute the faucet water of countless homeowners'houses.

Lead, an effective neurotoxin that can damage practically every system in the body, is especially risky to infants and young kids, whose developing brains are more susceptible to the metal's harmful impacts. Lead exposure is preventable. In Flint, the only permanent service to lowering the health risks originating from exposure to lead in faucet water is to get rid of the lead pipes. However residents who discover their homes may have lead pipelines can take safety measures to safeguard themselves and their families from lead exposure, which is why we needed to share the lead pipeline area details not just with the City of Flint however also with the broader Flint neighborhood.”A resident asked if we can make a map to get this details out to his community– can we do that?” Eric asked. Yes we can, we chose. And we did, producing the online, interactive Flint Water Service Line

Materials Map so that Flint citizens can discover the current details about the recognized or most likely structure of their home pipes. The release of the map coincides with the rebooting

of Flint's service line replacement program after the task was paused due to Michigan's COVID-19 limitations. With pipe evaluations ramping back up, the City of Flint is intending to total lead pipe replacements this year, which indicates that time is ticking for Flint homeowners to grant the City consent to check their water service lines and to replace lines that are made from lead or galvanized steel at no charge for citizens. Flint citizens can use the Flint Water Service Line map website to find out the current pipeline product at their houses, to discover the date of last pipeline assessment at their address, to connect to the City's inspection permission type, and to gain access to resources for actions they can take to protect themselves and their households if their homes have lead water lines. From index cards to online map The concept that any Flint citizen would have the ability to easily access details about their water service lines was a pipe dream in 2015, when it was discovered that the City of Flint had information about water line products for a number of the houses, however that info was spread throughout 45,000 individual index cards. Teaming up with the data technology company Captricity, Abernethy, Schwartz, and their associates scanned the cards and used expert system to assist make sense of the handwritten and sometimes smudged notes. But digitizing the available records was only the primary step in producing a cohesive and total image of the lead pipelines in Flint: the index card details dated back to 1910, was frequently incomplete, and did not supply info for all of the homes in the City. So Abernethy, Schwartz, and their affiliates developed a mathematical design that used all readily available details about each house in Flint, including the year the house was built and the house's community, to estimate the likelihood of that house having a lead water pipe. The City might then use the model to more effectively find the staying lead pipes and change them. Work to update and refine the model is continuous. As the City continues its work examining homes for lead pipes, it shares its findings with NRDC and Abernethy and Schwartz's team. That brand-new info is fed into the design, which then updates its estimates for where the lead is most likely to remain, which in turn enables the City to focus their evaluations on the locations at greatest risk for lead.

Using the design to more specifically forecast where the lead pipelines are located ways that the City can invest less money and time looking for lead and rather focus its resources on more rapidly changing known and believed lead lines. And now, with the publication of the service line map, the design forecasts about the pipes materials bringing faucet water into homes throughout the city is readily available to locals of Flint for the first time. The People's Data Becomes a Map for the People The map displays the recognized or likely materials of pipes throughout Flint. Clicking individual homes exposes more in-depth details: citizens can learn if and when their houses were

examined for lead pipes, and, for homes where lead pipes were changed with safe copper pipes, when the City of Flint finished that work. Through the map site, citizens can likewise access information about how to safeguard themselves if they do live

in a home serviced by a lead water pipe,

how to contact the City of Flint's service line replacement program, and how to get in touch with the map team. The Flint Service Line Map is a collaboration helmed by me and Jared Webb, Abernethy, Schwartz, and Ian Robinson of BlueConduit. NRDC lawyers working on our Flint advocacy– Dimple Chaudhary, Sarah Tallman, and Jolie McLaughlin– consulted on the job. The map is the product of our shared belief that homeowners have a right to know the pipe products bringing water into their own houses. We started with a simple mission

: To democratize the pipes data and to put the info into the hands of individuals of Flint. We developed the map to be easy to use and accessible to individuals with varied capabilities and needs. We worked with Flint citizens to ensure that we created the best map for Flint. We continue to gather community feedback and execute updates to the map to guarantee that we are sharing the data in a transparent and effective method, offering people what they need to advocate for safe water infrastructure. The story of Flint continues to have to do with people demanding safe water and the government being required to address their dreadful failure in securing the neighborhood from hazardous faucet water. The clear communication of water pipe info through the Flint Water Service Line Materials Map provides the people a powerful tool in their advocacy efforts. Flint as a Model Under the legal settlement won by NRDC and its local partners, the City of Flint is working to find and get rid of lead water service lines from all Flint homes with active water accounts through its service line replacement program. Beyond Flint, NRDC is combating to enhance guidelines to lower lead in tap water, championing the robust recognition of all service line products throughout the country and the replacement of those including lead.

NRDC's Mae Wu affirmed on EPA's proposed modifications to the Lead and

Copper Rule. Advocates of service line replacement programs like Flint's in other cities often run up against the”time and money”argument: Mandatory replacement of lead service lines “would take decades, expense billions of

dollars, and would prevent water supply from allocating their limited budget plans to other jobs,”complained Angela Licata, the deputy commissioner of New York City's Department of Environmental Protection in her current testament on proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule. However our experiences in Flint show that a data-driven technique can help determine the most likely places of lead service lines using all readily available details, as Abernethy and Schwartz's model does. This can conserve time and money in the hunt for lead service lines, permitting cities to focus on digging up the pipes that are most likely to really endanger the public health. And sharing that info in a transparent and available way helps neighborhood members assess their individual threat from lead pipelines and advocate for safe drinking water in their own homes. We were able to assist move the City of Flint from an assortment of 45,000 hand-written index cards to a data-driven modeling method to locating most likely lead lines, and now Flint locals have an user-friendly online map of current lead pipeline areas. If Flint can determine its water pipe products and its residents can quickly access this information,

then the very same can be performed in other cities. Our operate in Flint demonstrates that we can use the information we need to discover the 6-10 million lead pipes still hiding under homes throughout America, and that we can get the lead out, for excellent. About the Authors

Staff Scientist, Science Center Source:

nrdc.org

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