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Flint lead levels ‘much, much better,’ researcher says

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The state decided to temporarily switch Flint's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready. The river had a reputation for nastiness. After the April 2014 switch, residents complained their water looked, smelled and tasted funny.

FLINT, Mich. — Lead levels in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, are “much, much, better,” said the research group that initially identified the contamination.

New test results on lead in Flint water are “much, much, better than when we measured the water back in August, and children were getting elevated blood lead from drinking the lead contaminated water,” Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards said Friday.

“At first glance they look bad, but they are not inconsistent with other cities that meet the Federal Lead and Copper Rule,” Edwards told CNN in an email.

Nevertheless, Edwards cautioned, “people should keep using their lead filters and bottled water, until further notice.

“Everyone agrees that we should assume the water is unsafe,” Edwards said.

Testing was conducted between last October 3 and February 15, and of 10,227 homes examined, 597 residences showed lead levels between 15 and 100 parts per billion; 33 homes between 101 and 149 parts per billion; 90 others between 150 and over 10,000 parts per billion, according to a report from the state of Michigan.

Edwards is the lead researcher for the Flint Water Study, a research group that has conducted numerous tests on Flint’s system and was the first to publicly identify high levels of lead in the water last year.

This week, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said she wants the replacement of the city’s lead pipes to begin next week so that the community can have clean water as soon as possible. She urged Gov. Rick Snyder to pressure the state legislature to move immediately to approve funding for the first phase of a $55 million lead pipe replacement plan.

The governor also favored speedy pipe replacement, but it’s part of multi-step process.

“I don’t know if I’d want to say next week or not, but we’re talking a very short timeline to start having some pipes replaced in the community,” the governor said.