Clean the water
In April 2014 the state decided to temporarily switch Flint's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready.
The river had a reputation for nastiness, and after the switch, residents complained their water looked, smelled and tasted funny.
Virginia Tech researchers found the water was highly corrosive, and the city switched back to the Lake Huron water supply in October.
That decision aimed to do the obvious: Ensure that residents no longer get water from the notoriously noxious Flint River.
But did it mean that the tap water was suddenly safe to drink? No.
Flint's government ceded as much in its emergency declaration made two months after the switch back.
"Lead levels remain well above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion in many homes," the city said. "Residents are advised to continue using water filters while long-term solutions are being developed."
The last part -- about "long-term solutions" -- suggests that getting Flint's water absolutely clean again won't be easy. Lingering lead in the water supply may decrease, but it won't go away instantaneously.
This is why, three months after the switch, authorities continue to advise people not to drink or bathe in Flint's tap water. Already, more than 27,000 cases of bottled water have been handed out, while over 210,000 new and replacement water filters have been distributed.
The fact there's no clear end in sight reflects the considerable technical challenges of removing lead that has been in a water supply for months and is coming through what are now contaminated pipes.
Addressing these challenges will require experts at the top of their game. An element of patience will also be needed, as it will take time to flush out contaminants from Flint's water supply.
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