Although the water crisis in Flint, Mich., is being remedied through local and federal resources, businesses and residents within the city limits also have had to take their own corrective and protective measures to ensure the safety of their water supply.
On Jan. 26, the city reconnected to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's system after reversing its decision to tap into the Flint River for its water supply. The decision to retrieve water from the Flint River was made in April 2014, but led to pipe corrosion and lead-contaminated water. This means that even though the water now coming from Detroit is safe in and of itself, elevated levels of lead in the city's piping system require extra precaution.
Health care systems with properties within the city limits, too, say they have invested in equipment and testing to make sure their water supplies are safe for patients and staff.
Flint's Hurley Medical Center states: "Per the emergency advisory issued by the Genesee County Health Department, water should only be used for consumption if it has been tested to assure that it does not have elevated levels of lead. Hurley Medical Center began conducting lead level testing on its water when the lead concerns were first brought up. The results of our testing has shown that our water can be used by our staff and patients. To assure the water remains appropriate for use, testing will continue."
Genesys Health System has two facilities in the city — Genesys Downtown Flint Health Center and Genesys PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) Center. Hospital spokesperson Cindy Ficorelli says both are "newer facilities with newer infrastructures, and through extensive water testing have shown to have lead levels well within the acceptable range, identifying the water as safe to use. Even with this, these sites continue to take precautions through the use of filters and bottled water."
In addition, Ficorelli says the health system has been working with local organizations and agencies to help address this water crisis. Genesys has distributed guidelines and screening standards to encourage residents to be screened by their primary care physicians, and is incorporating a plan into its Community Benefit and Community Health Needs Assessment strategies to address what will be the long-term health care concerns of residents in the area.
"Genesys is in the midst of reaching out to all associates who live within the impacted ZIP codes to offer various support mechanisms, including the establishment of a primary care medical home (and lead screening) through one of our Family Health Centers if needed," Ficorelli says.
Another hospital affected by the water crisis, McLaren Flint says it "has taken aggressive measures over the past 18 months to implement additional processes to further safeguard and reinforce the quality of the water system at the hospital."
Some of those measures include:
- Invested more than $300,000 to purchase and install five monochloramine secondary disinfection water treatment systems to the hot water systems of the hospital. McLaren officials say monochloramine disinfects domestic hot water plumbing systems and has been determined to be the best state-of-the-art approach available.
- Installed new water and ice machines and nine water bottle filling stations that are all filtered for lead. The hospital states that these are being provided not because of concerns over lead in the water (as tests continue to support that the hospital is and has been within all safety and quality standards), but specifically to enhance peace of mind for patients and visitors.
- Distributed bottled water to patients and made available reverse osmosis water to allow patients, visitors and staff a choice regarding their water source for consumption to support their peace of mind.
- McLaren Flint's Water Committee — consisting of senior administration, regulatory compliance, patient safety, infection control, quality and engineering services — has worked with leading experts in the area of water quality and treatment to develop and administer a water safety plan in accordance with new industry standards.
- Continued surveillance testing of its water to further ensure consistent quality standards.
With these measures in place, the hospital reports that regular testing of its water system continues to confirm that its water supply is well within safety and quality standards.
"The health and safety of our patients, employees, physicians, visitors and volunteers is our highest priority at McLaren Flint," says Donald Kooy, president and CEO at McLaren. "We are committed to remaining vigilant in maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all who come to our facility."