Do not take drink­ing wa­ter for granted, Univer­sity of Wind­sor re­searchers say

Windsor Star - - CITY REGION - SHARON HILL shill@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/win­starhill

The no­to­ri­ous wa­ter cri­sis in Flint, Mich., shows why no one can af­ford to take drink­ing wa­ter for granted, say Univer­sity of Wind­sor re­searchers who wrote a re­cently-pub­lished case study on that city-wide con­tam­i­na­tion in 2015.

“Our wa­ter sys­tems are at risk and it’s not just Flint. It’s ev­ery­where and we need to be pay­ing at­ten­tion. We re­ally need to be ac­tive,” Univer­sity of Wind­sor as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Wren Mont­gomery said Mon­day.

“Wa­ter ser­vices are an easy place to cut back, an easy place to not in­vest. If you don’t in­vest in roads, peo­ple start call­ing the city be­cause they’re an­gry about the pot­holes but no­body re­ally knows what’s go­ing on with their pipes.” Mont­gomery said she hasn’t stud­ied the lo­cal wa­ter treat­ment sys­tems but, in gen­eral, she said, the cri­sis in Flint shows cities should not cut costs when it comes to drink­ing wa­ter. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need to keep spend­ing to up­date old in­fras­truc­ture and make sure wa­ter plants can test for and fil­ter out a wide range of pol­lu­tants, she said. Res­i­dents need to be pre­pared to see their wa­ter bills in­crease and to think more about pro­tect­ing lakes and rivers, she said. Mont­gomery pointed to such steps as not flush­ing old med­i­ca­tion down the toi­let and re­duc­ing the use of prod­ucts with mi­crobeads. Mont­gomery, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment at the Odette School of Busi­ness, and her for­mer stu­dent Natalina Aquino did a case study on the Flint wa­ter cri­sis, which was pub­lished this month in Sage Pub­lish­ing, a promi­nent on­line aca­demic re­source of case stud­ies. Aquino, who has since grad­u­ated with her busi­ness and eco­nom­ics de­gree and wants to study law, was the lead au­thor. She was head­ing to Chatham-Kent on Mon­day to learn more about the well wa­ter is­sues some lo­cal res­i­dents blame on pile-driv­ing for wind tur­bines. “It can re­ally just hap­pen any­where,” Aquino, 22, said warn­ing peo­ple not to take wa­ter for granted.

Flint, a once pros­per­ous city, fell on hard times as Gen­eral Mo­tors jobs dis­ap­peared there in the 1980s.

In an at­tempt to save money, Flint of­fi­cials de­cided to stop buy­ing wa­ter from Detroit and treat the wa­ter from the Flint River be­gin­ning in 2014. Tests in 2015 showed the wa­ter had dan­ger­ous lev­els of lead, which in chil­dren is linked to learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. Flint de­clared a state of emer­gency in De­cem­ber 2015 and soon the Michi­gan Na­tional Guard was dis­tribut­ing bot­tled wa­ter and peo­ple, in­clud­ing Wind­sorites, were do­nat­ing bot­tled wa­ter. The study noted that be­cause Flint had lead pipes and the river wa­ter was cor­ro­sive, the city should have used an anti-cor­ro­sion treat­ment. Wind­sor of­fi­cials said in 2016 that the Flint cri­sis couldn’t hap­pen here. Aquino said Flint’s case is sad. “It was a very sim­ple so­lu­tion that could have been im­ple­mented from the be­gin­ning,” she said. “They tried to save money and in the end they didn’t. It cost them­selves mil­lions or bil­lions of dol­lars.”

DAN JANISSE

As­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Wren Mont­gomery, left, and stu­dent Natalina Aquino wrote a case study about the Flint wa­ter cri­sis.

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