What is the University of Michigan-Flint doing to ensure water quality?

The University of Michigan-Flint has taken all necessary measures to ensure drinking water on campus—in all facilities—is safe, filtered, and regularly tested. This includes classrooms, residence halls, childcare, and cooking facilities. 

The University has been testing campus drinking water for more than a year to ensure its safety and quality. Our first tests were in October 2014 and by January 2015, we committed to quarterly testing. Our regular testing continues to find that filters on campus are working and safe to use. 

The University also is working to make sure all faculty, staff, and students who live in the city and have been affected by the water crisis have safe water off-campus too by distributing water filters and filter replacement cartridges. The University also is actively working in the community to distribute wate and filters, volunteer in recovery efforts, and put our expertise to work through research and hands-on recovery services. 

Source: UM-Flint Department of Environmental Health and Safety

What do UM-Flint water tests show?

The University began regular, independent water testing in the fall of 2014 in response to a “boil water advisory” from the city of Flint. The University was not within the geographic area impacted by the advisory, but it raised concerns about water quality in the Flint water system and prompted the implementation of independent, quarterly testing throughout campus.

Testing found elevated lead levels in January and February 2015 in the Northbank Building, the oldest building on campus. Problematic water fountains were removed and water filters were installed throughout the building. A secluded water fountain in the Central Energy Plant also had high lead levels in February 2015 and it was also removed. Testing also found a kitchen sink in a library break room with elevated lead levels in June. That sink—and other similar model sinks—were replaced.

These isolated instances of elevated lead levels were all addressed quickly and thoroughly.

Tests conducted in October 2015 confirmed that the water filters installed throughout campus are working and that campus drinking water is safe.

Source: UM-Flint Environmental Health and Safety

Do you have information from the City of Flint?

The City of Flint published a pamphlet for city residents with information about water-related resources and filters. The pamphlet is available in the following languages:

Has UM-Flint been impacted by the area’s spike in cases of Legionnaires' disease?

The University of Michigan-Flint campus community has not experienced any instances of Legionnaires' disease. Water testing and other health and safety monitoring measures have been ongoing, and in September 2016 tests did show the presence of Legionella bacteria in three locations in the Riverfront Residence Hall. The Genesee County Health Department has confirmed that none of the county's reported cases of Legionnaires' disease are connected to the Univeristy of Michigan-Flint.

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a bacteria that can sometimes cause a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) called Legionnaires' disease. The bacteria can also cause a less serious infection called Pontiac fever that has symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu. People can get Legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in a mist (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with Legionella. Legionella is found naturally in fresh water environments, like lakes and streams, but can become a health concern in human-made water systems.

Am I at risk for Legionnaires’ Disease?

Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella. Being 50 years or older or having certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting sick. 

These risk factors include: 

  • Being a current or former smoker
  • Having chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Having a weakened immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure
  • Taking medication that weakens your immune system

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease?

According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection), with symptoms that include:

Legionnaires' disease symptoms are similar to other types of pneumonia and it often looks the same on a chest x-ray.

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

What kind of water filters does UM-Flint use?

The University uses NSF 42 and 53 certified water filters. Fountains and faucets throughout campus have “Filtered Water” stickers affixed to them so you can be sure your water is filtered. Please reference the Campus Filtered Water Location page for a complete list of those locations.
Source: UM-Flint Environmental Health and Safety

Do students living on campus need water donations?

All students living in First Street Residence Hall have filters installed in their rooms and in common cooking areas. We also made filters available to all students living at Riverfront Residence Hall, regardless of which institution they attend.
Source: UM-Flint Environmental Health and Safety

Is it safe to take a bath or shower?

According to the Genesee County Health Department: “Bathing and showering should be safe, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water. This information applies to most situations and to a large majority of the population, but individual circumstances may vary. Some situations, such as cases involving highly corrosive water, may require additional recommendations or more stringent actions.”
Source: Genesee County Health Department

How did lead get into tap water?

Officials in charge of the city of Flint decided to switch the source of city’s drinking water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the Flint River. That switch occurred in April, 2014. The Flint River’s corrosivity turned out to be much higher than that of Lake Huron, where DWSD draws its water. When the corrosive Flint River water came into contact with lead service lines, lead soldering, and lead piping used in older homes, the lead was able to leach from the pipes into drinking water.

Source: Virginia Tech Flint Water Study

Why didn’t switching back to the Detroit water system fix the problem?

According to Virginia Tech professor Dr. Marc Edwards, the corrosive Flint River water aged the city’s water distribution system “11.5 years or so in just 16 months.” Even though Lake Huron water is now running through the distribution system, the structural integrity of the pipes has been compromised, rendering them more susceptible to damage that can cause lead to enter the water running through them.

Source: Virginia Tech | Environmental Protection Agency

Where can I get more information on UM-Flint’s course on the Flint water crisis?

The 1-credit course is being offered the Department of Public Health and Health Sciences. It will feature panel discussions by leading experts. To register and to find out more, visit www.umflint.edu/pubhealth/flint-water-crisis.

How is UM-Flint helping the community?

In this time of crisis, the University has both the opportunity and the obligation to be of service. Part of the central mission of the University of Michigan-Flint, as a regional comprehensive university, is to contribute to the wellbeing of our community. The University is working in partnership to identify needs and contribute to a greater education and awareness. In fact, the University’s faculty, staff, and students are involved in the water crisis at every level.

  • Campus hosted the first large-scale community filter distribution in October, giving out 3,000 filters in a single day.
  • UM-Flint’s GIS mapping center is the primary organization analyzing Flint’s water infrastructure and identifying problems.
  • Public Health and Health Sciences is providing a course on the Flint water crisis free of charge to the community.
  • Nursing faculty and students are committed to providing free lead screening until 100 percent of at-risk children are tested.
  • Our expert health and safety staff, as well as faculty, serve on a number of community boards that have been leading voices in identifying, and now responding to, the water crisis.
  • All three campuses of the University of Michigan are coming together to provide faculty expertise and U-M President Mark Schlissel has provided $100,000 in seed funding for university faculty research initiatives.

How can I help?

Students and faculty are encouraged to work with your deans so that we can incorporate your thoughts into our ongoing University response.

If you are interested in participating in the community volunteer effort, please contact University Outreach at 810-424-5486 or pnas@umflint.edu. Outreach will work directly with the Red Cross to help coordinate our support.

Where can I get more information?


Main website:  http://www.gchd.us/
Lead in Water Fact Sheet (PDF)