As the city of Flint, Michigan continues to grapple with a water crisis that has poisoned some of its residents after the corrosion of the city’s lead-lined pipes tainted its water supply, the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) issued a statement yesterday, assuring residents that a Flint-style disaster would not happen in Long Beach.
The department’s release stated that what happened in Michigan could not happen in Long Beach, based solely on the fact that Long Beach does not use lead service lines. Instead, the city’s distribution pipeline service is made of copper or plastic, which minimizes the possibility of Long Beach residents being subject to lead poisoning via its tap water.
The statement also noted that the Long Beach water supply has remained the same—it purchases water from the Metropolitan Water District as well as pumping from groundwater—and it continues to monitor water to ensure that it’s not corrosive. The Flint crisis originates from the city's decision to switch to the Flint River as its main water supply in a cost-cutting move, one that deteriorated the city's lead-lined pipes and sickened many of its residents.
In other words, the department’s release sought to reinforce confidence in its services in the event that any Long Beachers became wary of the possibility they might be lining up for daily rations of bottled water from the National Guard as residents of Flint have been subjected to.
“We take seriously our responsibility to protect our water customers from lead exposure,” said Chris Garner, general manager of Long Beach Water in the release. “We continually conduct strict monitoring in accordance with regulatory requirements, and we always strive to provide our community with safe and high quality drinking water.”
According to the 2015 annual water quality report, the water delivered to residents in the city met all Environmental Protection Agency and State drinking water health standards. Those figures were based off over 55,000 tests carried out by a team of water experts that tested for over 100 possible water contaminants, including lead, arsenic and uranium. The results found that all regulated contaminants were within allowable thresholds set by the EPA and the State.
High concentrations of lead in drinking supplies have been linked to serious health problems, especially for children and pregnant women. According to the World Health Organization, lead exposure can result in damage to the body’s nervous and reproductive systems as well as the kidneys. It’s also been linked to irreversible consequences in young children, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems and other cognitive issues.
Water purchased from the MWD and that pumped from ground wells sourced by the San Gabriel Watershed are treated with a variety of chemical and filtration processes before it reaches the pipes that pump them into Long Beach homes. The 2015 test results showed the city’s water testing results for lead placed it in the 90th percentile nationwide, as the allowable levels were zero percent above federal allowable levels.