Over the last few years, the city of Flint, Michigan has been under serious duress. Their drinking water, which had previously been supplied by the city-wide water treatment plant in Detroit, now comes from the Flint River, a local body of water with a reputation for being unclean. This happened without the knowledge of Flint residents and when they found out, they were told it was safe to drink and use as they would normally do. However, this was no where near close to the truth. In fact, the Flint River is known to be a dumping ground for toxic chemicals, machinery, car parts, used cars, trash and even bodies. Locals wouldn’t even swim in it, let alone drink it.
After water from the Flint River started being filtered into the pipes in Flint, already dirty water started collecting lead that was leaching from the old pipes. Since there had been no corrosion inhibitors installed as they should have been, water testing discovered that heavy lead began essentially poisoning the people of Flint, especially the children who were found to have high levels of lead in their blood.
Soon after there was an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. Legionnaire’s disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria which is usually found in fresh water such as lakes and rivers. Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia that causes fever, cough, severe headaches, nausea, muscle pain and trouble breathing. In severe cases, the infected person might have chills, cough up blood or have kidney or liver failure. In some cases, neurological symptoms may be present as well.
Since there is no vaccine for Legionnaire’s disease, the only real way to prevent it is to keep water sources clean. This means water, especially water made for consumption, should be treated, cleaned and processed in a water treatment plant. If it’s not, it can continue to provide a breeding ground for bacteria such as Legionella. Of course, this is why the outbreak was traced back to the Flint water system,which was highly contaminated. Free water testing helped to determine that the Legionella bacteria was in the water system, which proved that the Flint river was causing the outbreak.
Outbreaks such as the Legionnaire’s outbreak in Flint, Michigan are especially dangerous because of the fact that there was no escaping the water supply. Even though not everyone who comes into contact with Legionella bacteria will develop Legionnaire’s disease, there were numerous other issues with the water as shown by microbiological testing. Lead levels are harmful to humans and must be monitored closely to ensure health. In the meantime, the people of Flint have been using bottled water for cooking, drinking, bathing and more as a way to keep bacteria out of their systems.
Without accurate testing systems, the people of Flint may never have known about the danger in their water supply and even more people may have been affected. Of course, the best case scenario is for a water supply never to be contaminated without a resident’s knowledge, but it does prove the effectiveness of scientific testing of water systems.