Flint residents under citywide boil water advisory after water main break

(FLINT, Mich.) — Residents of Flint, Michigan, are facing yet another issue with the city’s embattled water system.

Flint announced a citywide boil water advisory after a water main broke Friday morning, causing the pressure of the entire city’s system to drop below safe levels.

Crews have been able to locate the damaged 24-inch transmission line and begin repairs, officials said. A public notice said that officials anticipate the repairs, flushing, and necessary testing will continue at least through Monday, meaning the city’s over 80,000 residents will be left boiling filtered water or using bottled water through the weekend.

A Facebook post from the City of Flint described the boil water advisory as a “precaution.”

“We are estimating right now, if everything goes well, by Monday we will be all clear with this,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said at a press conference. “The repair is underway right now.”

The call for bottled water use comes a month after a program that previously provided free bottled water to residents ended, though the city still offers water filters.

Flint officials have not identified the cause of Friday’s main break. The notice mentioned that the reservoir and pump station at fault was scheduled for renovation later this year.

“As the City of Flint continues to upgrade our water infrastructure, we need to keep in mind that the integrity of our infrastructure is uneven,” Department of Public Works Director Mike Brown said. “Some of it is state of the art, and some of it is very old.”

The failure of the water main caused a drop in water pressure citywide Friday morning, prompting the boil water advisory. Officials notified the public about the main break on Flint’s city website shortly after 10:00 a.m. local time on Friday; Less than an hour later, officials said they located the break and enacted the boil water advisory.

The federal Safe Water Drinking Act’s public notification rule includes requirements to notify the public about the loss of water pressure in drinking water systems. Michigan’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division notes that a low-pressure event can allow contaminants to enter a water supply; however, the declaration of a boil water advisory during a low-pressure event can be made on a case-by-case basis.

To lift the advisory, crews will need to repair the transmission line, flush the system, and complete bacterial testing, according to the advisory.

To maintain water service, Flint increased the amount of water it receives from the Great Lakes Water Authority and Genesee County Drain Commission.

Meanwhile, city officials recommend that residents use bottled water or filtered and boiled water for consumption and cleaning purposes. State guidance recommends that residents boil cold filtered water for one minute to kill bacteria and microorganisms.

Once the boil water advisory is lifted, state guidance recommends flushing plumbing, cleaning faucet aerators, and changing water filters.

Flint suffered a years-long water crisis in 2014 after budget cuts prompted a change in the city’s water source. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water, allowing lead to leach into the supply and expose residents to the carcinogenic substance.

Research from the University of Michigan later indicated that children in Flint were exposed to triple the lead compared to children a decade earlier.

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