The tap water in Flint, Mich., is safe for anyone to drink — as long as it is filtered, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Thursday.
The declaration means filters can bring the lead levels in the water down to a safe level, and vulnerable populations such as young children and pregnant women can be confident that it is OK to drink.
It’s a major milestone in the ongoing saga over Flint’s contaminated water and a major step toward the city’s recovery.
The EPA’s conclusion is based on two months of testing at dozens of the most at-risk locations throughout the city, which found that all of the levels are below the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion.
“This is an important step forward for providing a stable water system for the City of Flint,” Tom Burke, head of the EPA’s research office, said in a statement.
“Residents can be confident that EPA’s sampling results correspond with previous tests and are consistent with outside experts’ findings,” he said.
“With the results of this testing, residents can be confident that they can use filtered water and protect their developing fetus or young child from lead,” added Nicole Lurie, head of preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services and the leader of the federal government’s months-long emergency response in Flint.
Michigan has provided Flint with free filters since January, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has pitched in as well.
The problems started when Flint switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River because of a state order in April 2014.
Gov. Rick Snyder (R) did not acknowledge the lead contamination until late last year; it has dropped since Flint switched back early this year to using pre-treated water from Detroit.
The city has also been putting in additives that rescale the city’s lead pipes, whose corrosion caused the lead contamination.