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EPA study finds water filters effective at removing lead in Benton Harbor homes

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Flickr user Steve Johnson https://www.flickr.com/photos/artbystevejohnson/6307672876
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An Environmental Protection Agency study has found that certified filters are “very effective” at removing lead from Benton Harbor’s drinking water.

The EPA collected samples from about 200 Benton Harbor homes late last year. The agency says samples were collected from all brands of filters currently provided by the Berrien County Health Department.

The study found that most samples filtered through faucet or pitcher filters had no detectable level of lead, and all filtered samples tested below 5 parts per billion.

But that’s only if the filters were used properly. According to agency guidelines, hot water can’t be used in either faucet or pitcher filters. Filter screens also need to be cleaned and checked for debris every week, and flushed for five seconds before drinking or cooking.

The study found that residents need better information to install and operate filters properly.

Scientists also collected samples for sequential and particle studies. The particle study found that when lead was detected in Benton Harbor water, it tended to clump together in larger particles — meaning it’s generally easier for a filter to catch.

Full results from the sequential study have yet to be released, but it will help determine the primary location of lead contamination in the home — whether it’s brass fixtures, solder, galvanized water lines or lead service lines.

The study will also help determine the effectiveness of corrosion control, a process used at the drinking water plant to keep lead from leaching into the water.

Michigan officials are still recommending that Benton Harbor residents use bottled water for drinking, cooking, rinsing food, brushing teeth and mixing infant formula.

The state has committed to replacing all of the city’s lead service lines in the next 16 months. In the meantime, residents can still pick up free bottled water at designated sites.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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