The Stream, December 11, 2019: Water Company Knew About Flint Lead Risk in Early 2015, Emails Reveal

The Global Rundown

Emails from early 2015 show that executives at Veolia, a major utility company, knew about the potential for lead contamination in Flint, Michigan. PFAS levels in the water system of Ann Arbor, Michigan, remain higher-than-average, according to recent testing. New South Wales, Australia, plans to improve coordination of aid to drought-hit farmers following criticism of the current system. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan plan to finalize negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on January 13. Researchers warn that buying undeveloped land in flood-prone parts of Minnesota could save billions of dollars in the long-run.

“The documents show a Veolia executive, a month before the corporation told the city its water was safe, saying that ‘lead seems to be a problem. I think anyone has to ask themselves how the story in Flint would be different five years later now if Veolia had made those private concerns public.” —Alissa Weinman, spokeswoman for the watchdog group Corporate Accountability, in reference to an exchange of emails among Veolia executives in February 2015. The emails show that Veolia was aware that households in Flint, Michigan, were at risk of lead leaching into drinking water. The company asserted that city officials should change the water supply, but their knowledge and recommendations about the situation were never revealed to the public. The Guardian 

In context: Circle of Blue’s coverage of the Flint water crisis.

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

What’s Up With Water – December 9, 2019  — This week’s edition of What’s Up With Water includes coverage on water shortages in Bali, the driest spring in Australia ever recorded, and the impact of drought on Zimbabwe’s cattle bank. 

HotSpots H2O: Rivers Run Dry in Bali as Tourism, Drought, Overwhelm Water Supply — The Indonesian island is in the midst of a drought and water is running out fast, pitting local water needs against those of the powerful tourism industry.

By The Numbers

25.3 parts per trillion (ppt) PFAS detected in Ann Arbor’s treated drinking water in November, up from 25.1 ppt in October, according to the latest city test results. Contamination levels dipped as low as 2 ppt earlier this year, but have since climbed upward for reasons that are unclear to officials. December test results are not yet available. MLive

Science, Studies, and Reports

A study by the Nature Conservancy and the University of Bristol found that buying up undeveloped floodplains in certain parts of Minnesota, including the headwaters of the Mississippi, could potentially save the state billions of dollars. Purchasing and protecting the vacant land, researchers argue, would cost taxpayers less than the flood damages that would ultimately occur if homes and businesses were built in the flood-prone areas. Minneapolis Star Tribune

On the Radar

Agricultural ministers in New South Wales, Australia, announced plans to establish a new drought working group tasked with improving coordination of aid to farmers. Many farmers have criticized the current aid system as too confusing and time-consuming, prompting officials to form the new working group. The Guardian

In context: In Australia, Echoes of Past, Glimpses of Future As Country Braces for Hot, Dry Summer.

In the past month, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have met twice with officials from the U.S. and the World Bank in an attempt to smooth out a long-running dispute over the Grand Ethipian Renaissance Dam. This week, a joint statement between the three nations and the U.S. Treasury Department announced that a final round of negotiations over the contentious dam will take place on January 13, 2020. Reuters

In context: HotSpots H2O: Egypt and Ethiopia Spar Over Nile River Dam in Latest Round of Talks

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