Information about CWD Water Compared to Flint Michigan

Information about Cambridge Water: A Comparison to Flint Michigan

February 4, 2016

The lead crisis in Flint Michigan has made national news, and triggered public concern about drinking water quality.  Many of the issues come from lead leaching from “lead” water services, mechanical fittings and household fixtures (i.e. faucets) and plumbing when coming into contact with drinking water that has a low pH or is corrosive.  Please compare below the Cambridge Water Department’s status to that of Flint, Michigan:

Source of Water

Flint: Recently changed its water source from Detroit to its backup supply, the Flint River.

Cambridge: Since the later 1800’s Cambridge has used the Hobbs Brook Reservoir, Stony Brook Reservoir and Fresh Pond water supply system with the occasional supplementary supply from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s (MWRA - Quabbin Reservoir supply).

Treatment Changes

Flint: Began using backup treatment plant with a new source water and did not install corrosion control treatment when switching the water supplies.

Cambridge: Has many years of regulatory compliance that requires Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) testing and has been in compliance throughout.

LCR Compliance included the old treatment facility, starting in the early 90’s and before temporarily using MWRA water during the construction of the Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility completed in 2001.  During the construction of our “new” facility we coordinated with the MWRA to ensure that their water would be compatible with the Cambridge water system to maintain our compliance with the LCR.  When the new Cambridge Facility was brought on-line a full new set of Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) compliance testing was conducted.  We continue to be in compliance with the LCR and coordinate operational and treatment issues with the MWRA as may be necessary. 

Taste and Odor Complaints

Flint: Initial reports of poor water quality (taste and odor) were ignored.  Data suggesting lead levels in water were elevated and were initially dismissed by local and state officials.

Cambridge: Every complaint is taken seriously and is investigated.

Public Information

Flint: Water quality data was not made public and citizens had to gather their own data.

Cambridge: Water quality data is published in the annual “Drinking Water Quality Report” (copies available by clicking here) and description of our treatment systems and water quality data are published on the Cambridge Water Department website.  Staff from the treatment plant and laboratory do respond to inquiries.  We offer free home water quality lead testing. For more Information, please click here.

Lead Services and Materials

Flint: Almost half the homes in Flint have lead services.

Cambridge: Have been offering free lead service removal in the public way for over 20 years and have been purchasing lead free materials/fittings that come in contact with the water for over 15 years.  We have significantly reduced lead services and materials in the water system all of which contribute to keeping the lead levels in our drinking water as low as possible.


The Cambridge Water Department has had corrosion control treatment for over 20 years - since the early 90’s, continually monitor our water quality, proactively tests any proposed changes to treatment, and responds immediately to any customer water quality concerns.

Please click here for CWD water quality data.

A second document issued by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) about a comparison of their water to Flint can be found by clicking here