Celebrating Spartans: MSU Helping Water Crisis

EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Leading Michigan State researchers are working to help end the Flint water crisis on the ground and in the lab.

MSU researchers will be some of the first people to know if and when Flint water is safe to use.

They say their tests and research have become about more than just the data.

“Ferichloride is the coagulant that was used um…by The Flint Water Treatment Plant, and this is what they added to remove the organic matter, and the particulates from the Flint River,” said Susan Masten, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Michigan State University.

You may not have understood all of that, but what’s important is that she does.

In October Flint switched back to the Detroit water system. Now treated water from Lake Huron flows into Flint.

Professor Susan Masten and her research team are in the process of testing hundreds of water samples taken from Flint taps, pipes and the water treatment center looking for solutions to this crisis on the molecular level.

“How long is the water sitting in the pipes before it actually gets to the home and is there some relationship between water age and the lead levels.”

Masten believes if her research can answer that question her team may be able to reduce the amount of lead leaching into the system by changing the way the water moves through city pipes.

This is where the magic happens. This MSU engineering lab is a mini water treatment plant for the time being.

“This is like the typical jug you would take for sampling.”

Here engineering students and professors can re-create the same processes as the Flint water treatment plant, even using the same chemicals.

“We’re looking at the concentrations of those chemicals to make sure that they don’t exceed the drinking water standards.”

Masten says the data shows Flint pipes are recovering from the months of chemical corrosion caused by the mistreated Flint River water, but it’s happening slowly.

“There is still Iron corrosion that seems to be occurring. We are still seeing concentrations of lead that are much higher than what we would like.”

And the research doesn’t stop at the tap.

Volunteers have been going door -to-door handing out on-tap water filters.

Masten is in the process of proposing a study to the National Science Foundation to look at the effectiveness of these filters.

“We want to make sure that these point-of-use filters really are working.”

The professor says conversation around her dinner table at night mostly surrounds the Flint water crisis and that she can no longer look at the data as just numbers anymore.

“On behalf of the water community, I’m sorry, This is something that shouldn’t happen.”

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