Could Buffalo become the next Flint?

Posted at 10:38 AM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 10:38:51-04

Wounds from the lead water crisis are still fresh in Flint, Michigan. 7 Eyewitness News Reporter, Justin Moore recently toured the city as part of the Drinking Water Institute - Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources.

He met Joseph who’s a Flint resident. Like most Flint residents, Joseph and his family still only use bottled water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and even washing.

“There is no future here. Our community has given up on us. We are the social waste dump,” Joseph said.

Not only are residents faced with lead challenges, water is getting shut off daily in neighborhoods. Many residents can’t afford and refuse to pay water bills costing as much as $200 or more a month.

“We are paying the highest prices in the nation for water and it’s poison water. What is wrong with this picture,” Joseph said.

More than 18,000 lead pipes need to be replaced in Flint. This does not include the pipes inside each home. Jeffery Grayer and his construction company are helping with the efforts to replace some of these toxic pipes.

“We’ve taken one pictures, some pictures of inside. Some of the pipes and you can see some of the corrosions inside. So it’s a serious situation,” Grayer said.

Experts say lead can cause developmental problems mainly in children.

Could something like this ever happen here in Western New York?

Dr. James Jensen an Environmental Engineer Professor at the University at Buffalo said lead in drinking water is a concern across the country. He thinks it’s less likely to become an issue like Flint here in Western New York. That’s because most of the water in Western New York comes from Lake Erie, which is one of the freshest source of water in the world.

“Something like Flint to happen in Western New York we would have to have the same kind of failures at many different levels,” Dr. Jensen said.

However, Buffalo has many lead pipes across the city. Unlike the State of Michigan, New York has tougher regulations for treatment of drinking water.

“We have recently been doing a lot of testing of water systems of people’s homes and it’s really you know the water has come out to be clean even in the city of Buffalo in areas where we do find children with elevated blood lead levels,” Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein said.

She said the biggest problem the county has with lead is in older homes with lead paint. Erie County and Buffalo has developed programs to help families who are dealing with that.

For more information, City of Buffalo residents can call 311, visit the City of Buffalo website at www.city-buffalo.com or www.wipeoutlead.com. Erie County residents can also call the Erie County Department of Health at (716) 961-8900 or (716) 961-6800.