Michigan officials admitted Monday that the state made a mistake during its testing of the quality of drinking water in the economically battered city of Flint, where blood lead levels in some children had more than doubled since the city switched its water supply to a cheaper source.
Activists in Flint had earlier accused the state’s environmental officials of ignoring their concerns about their city’s drinking water.
The state’s Department of Environmental Quality said it had followed the wrong federal protocol on corrosion control for the treatment of Flint River water, after the city last year switched its water source to the river instead of Lake Huron in a bid to save money.
“The water testing steps followed would have been correct for a city of less than 50,000 people, but not for a city of nearly 100,000,” the department’s director, Dan Wyant, said in a statement. Flint’s population is about 99,000.
The state also announced that it has reassigned its chief for municipal drinking water and named a new interim director, according to local news outlet MLive.
The Flint water crisis began after the city in April 2014 switched from Detroit’s water system, which draws from Lake Huron, to getting its water from the Flint River.
Researchers said Flint River water is much more corrosive, causing lead from the city’s distribution system to leech into it. Independent investigations have found elevated lead levels in the city’s water and high blood lead levels in some children.
Flint reconnected to Detroit’s water system last Friday, the Detroit News reported.
The city’s mayor, who in July drank tap water on TV in an attempt to ease residents’ concerns, responded to the state's announcement on Monday. “The people of Flint hear this admission, and we demand that the state fully fix this problem they caused,” Mayor Dayne Walling said.
Marc Edwards, a researcher from Virginia Tech who conducted the independent study, applauded the state for “admitting that mistakes were made.”