San Francisco firm introduces new maps of Flint water system

SAN FRANCISCO—OmniSci, the San Francisco-based big data analytics and graphics software developer, and BlueConduit, the Ann Arbor-based water infrastructure analytics company, announced the debut of a public website that maps current information about residential water service line replacements in Flint.

The Flint service line map may be found at www.flintpipemap.org.

These water service lines are the pipes that deliver each home their water. If the pipes are made of lead, they can contaminate that home’s water with lead. The problem: Flint, like most other cities, did not know exactly which pipes were lead. Presented in house-by-house detail, the map allows residents to easily find out about their known or likely water service line material, along with repair dates and other useful information.

Officials of the two companies said the Flint water map is the first to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict, with high accuracy, the incidence of lead pipes in residential service water lines. The site is provided as a public service and shows the same assessment and status information used by contractors in the city’s FAST Start pipe replacement program. Residential properties are color-coded individually, according to likelihood for having lead service pipes. Clicking on a location reveals street address, pipe verification date, repair updates and links to pertinent city information.

BlueConduit collaborated with the Natural Resources Defense Council to ensure the map adhered to best practices in public health communication.

“As we addressed the incredible complexity of predicting the presence of lead pipes in Flint, our model incorporated a massive amount of data from dozens of sources,” said BlueConduit chief data scientist Jared Webb. “We were extremely pleased with the power of the OmniSci platform to integrate and process this information. We looked at other technologies, but OmniSci was the only solution that was able to interactively query, filter, and render the geospatial data we had.”

Beginning in 2016 in response to its water crisis, the city of Flint has been replacing lead or galvanized steel service lines to residential homes under its FAST Start program. Due in large part to the predictive algorithm developed by BlueConduit and enabled by OmniSci’s analytics technology, the hit rate for finding lead or galvanized service pipes in Flint increased from as low as 15 percent without the use of the algorithm, to 80 percent with the algorithm.

Through 2019, the City of Flint has checked service lines at 24,304 residences and replaced 9,448 lead or galvanized steel lines. It predicts more than 1,000 homes still require replacements and anticipates completing the project by the end of 2020.

“The community, environmental health, and economic benefits of this project can’t be overemphasized,” stated Eric Schwartz, co-founder of BlueConduit and professor at the University of Michigan. “Helping the Flint community switch quickly and most efficiently to safer water infrastructure is an ideal example of how big data analytics can be used to solve complex problems with a positive social impact. BlueConduit has worked to help stretch taxpayer dollars farther so that they can remove lead service lines from more residents’ homes and do so quicker. BlueConduit is proud to have welcomed OmniSci as a key partner in our initiatives for addressing these infrastructure and informational challenges that continue from the Flint water crisis.”

More at www.omnisci.com or www.blueconduit.com.

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