Elon Musk's water filtration station is ready for testing at Flint Schools-Flint Beat

2021-12-06 12:17:18 By : Ms. Eartha Zhu

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Flint, Michigan - According to Kettering University officials, the water filtration system funded by Elon Musk is ready for final testing at Flint School.

It has been almost three years since Musk donated US$480,000 in October 2018 to pay for the installation of UV water stations in all Flint school buildings and administrative buildings.

Laura Sullivan, Kettering's professor of mechanical engineering, provided the latest information about the project at the Board of Education meeting on August 18.  

The next steps include connecting the stations to the pipes in the area and testing three water samples at each station. Arch Environmental Group will conduct the test.

Sullivan said the team will sample water as it enters the school building, enters the fountain, and exits the tap.

"Some pipes in schools and galvanized iron (which absorbs lead from water) contain lead. In addition, in some buildings, the chlorine content is not always sufficient to completely disinfect the water," Sullivan said.

Kettering University has been working with school district volunteers to test and perfect the system before children use it.

Sullivan said part of the reason for the slow progress is the pandemic and problems with the original filter manufacturer.

The initial configuration requires three filters: a carbon block filter to remove metals such as copper and lead, a membrane filter to prevent bacteria from flowing through, and an ultraviolet light to kill remaining bacteria or viruses.

Sullivan said that in the initial test, the results of the filters were inconsistent and were not certified, which means they did not meet the National Sanitation Foundation's standards for contaminant removal.

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Unable to contact the manufacturer, Sullivan began to look for alternatives. She found it made by a company called 3M. The new filter performs carbon block filtration and membrane filtration at the same time.

"This is what one unit can do what the other two units do," Sullivan said.

Kettering began testing the new device in January 2021, which included adding known amounts of bacteria and metals to the water, sending them to stations, and then measuring the bacteria and lead content.

Sullivan said that in all three tests, bacteria were reduced by 99.7%-100%.

Arch Environmental conducted copper and lead testing. In all three tests, the copper content was less than 20 micrograms per liter, far below the level allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sullivan said lead levels were never detected during the test.

Sullivan said that on-site testing is required to ensure that they can work as if they were in a laboratory environment.

"I have good reason to believe that they should do this, just in case there is a problem with any of these machines," she said.

Before field testing begins, Flint Schools must order more filters from 3M. Sullivan said they cost less than $100 each, which is a reasonable price.

Sullivan said she recommends that the school district replace the filter every school year.

"What happens when they are too old is not that they will let bacteria or anything through, but that there will be no traffic passing through the filter. Children will only be frustrated that nothing is showing up," she said.

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

"It is one of the best in the country due to the components. However, Flint School’s students, staff and Flint School are now entitled to a sense of trust. You cannot enter any other school system.​​ ,"she says. "So, what we now have in Flint is not only our most advanced water dispenser, but also the data to prove it."

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with extensive experience in news reporting and feature writing. Before joining the Flint Beat news team, she wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN magazine, as an education and public figure...More from Carmen Nesbitt