Elon Musk’s water filtration stations ready for testing in Flint schools


Flint, MI – Elon Musk-funded water filtration systems are ready for final testing at schools in Flint, according to officials at Kettering University.

It’s been almost three years since Musk donated $ 480,000 in October 2018 to cover the cost of installing UV water stations in all of Flint’s school buildings and the administration building.

Laura Sullivan, professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering, provided an update on the project at an Education Council meeting on August 18.

The next steps are to connect the stations to the district plumbing and test three water samples of each. Arch Environmental Group is scheduled to perform the tests.

The group will sample the water as it enters the school building, when it enters the fountain and when it comes out of the faucet, Sullivan said.

“There is lead in the plumbing of schools, as well as galvanized iron (which has absorbed lead from the water). Also, in some buildings, the chlorine level is not always sufficient to completely disinfect the water, ”said Sullivan.

Kettering University has volunteered with the district to test and refine the systems before they are used by children.

Progress has been slow in part because of the pandemic and issues with the original filter maker, Sullivan said.

The original setup required three filters: a carbon block filter to remove metals like copper and lead, a membrane filter to prevent bacteria from passing through, and ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria or viruses.

In initial testing, the filters had inconsistent results and were also not certified, meaning they did not meet National Sanitation Foundation standards for contaminant removal, Sullivan said.

Unable to contact the manufacturer, Sullivan began to search for an alternative. She found one made by the company called 3M. The new filter performed both carbon block filtration and membrane filtration.

“It’s a unit that would do what the other two units did,” Sullivan said.

Kettering began testing the new units in January 2021, which involved adding known amounts of bacteria and metals to the water, sending it to stations, and measuring bacteria and lead levels by the following.

Between the three tests, there was a 99.7% to 100% reduction in bacteria, Sullivan said.

Arch Environmental has performed copper and lead tests. Between the three tests, the copper levels were below 20 micrograms per liter, well below the levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Lead levels were never detected during testing, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said field tests are needed to make sure they perform as well as in the lab.

“I have every reason to believe they should, that’s fine in case something happens with one of these machines,” she said.

Before field testing begins, Flint schools should order additional filters from 3M. They cost just under $ 100 a piece, which is reasonable, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she is recommending the district replace filters every school year.

“What will happen when they’re too old isn’t that they’ll let bacteria pass or anything, it’s that there just won’t be any flow through them. filters. And the kids will just be frustrated because nothing comes out, ”she said.

If all goes well, the field tests should be completed within a month, Sullivan said, adding that no other school district in the country will have the technology.

“It’s one of the best in the country, because of the components. But the sense of trust that the students of Flint schools and the staff and schools of Flint are entitled to have now. You couldn’t get into any other school system, ”she said. “So what we have now at Flint is not just our state-of-the-art water coolers, but the data to prove it. “

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