Town Hall meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at Kessey Fieldhouse
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – The City Council held a special meeting Oct. 21 to discuss a drinking water advisory following the detection of lead which exceeded the action level in water samples in September.
The tap water of nine of 30 residential water customers with known lead service leads sampled in September exceeded a lead level of 15 parts per billion, representing 30 percent of the samples. When more than 10 percent of the samples tested with the new protocol have elevated levels, an action level occurs.
An action level, while not a health-based standard, triggers additional action, which may include increased investigative sampling of tap water and providing information to residential water users. While it does not represent a violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, the city of Melvindale will provide residents with information on how to reduce lead exposure from drinking water to minimize potential health risks.
A Town Hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 30 in the banquet hall at the Kessey Field House, 4300 W. Dearborn St., to answer resident questions.
Mayor Stacy Bazman said printed information in English, Arabic and Spanish will also be available for residents.
Bazman said during the Oct. 21 special meeting that the state’s initial recommendation, prior to re-testing of the tap water at the highest lead level locations, was that all residents should consume bottled water.
“I advocated that nine samples out of 3,300 houses is not reflective of having warranted bottled water,” Bazman said. “So, I took the 50 people that were on our conference call, from the governor’s office, the DEQ, the Health Department, Homeland Security, and I wrote them this letter, what I would recommend that the city do, in response to not doing bottled water, because we aren’t Flint.
“It is not that we are getting a dirty product. (Great Lakes Water Authority) has clean water of good quality, it’s just that we have some houses that have some lead beads that could be causing some lead higher that 15 ppb. It could be galvanized plumbing. It could be the solder on your copper pipes. I learned that if your faucets are more than 10 years old, it could be from that.”
Bazman said even the aerator on a faucet could be contaminated.
“So, there are a lot of things that could contribute to that,” Bazman said. “Friday (Oct. 18) we had a few more conference calls, and they concluded that we were going to be going to filters.”
One free lead-reducing filter will be a provided for households with a child, a pregnant woman or to those who cannot afford the cost of a filter, from 2 to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25 at the Kessey Field House.
Bazman said state officials told her that they did not require proof of being low income to be supplied with the lead water filters. She said the city’s median income has actually decreased, and is about $28,000 per household.
“I would anticipate that a lot of residents would qualify for the free filter,” Bazman said. “They haven’t attached a price for anything. I think there will be some people on hand from the health department to help distribute those filters.”
Bazman said the city’s website and Facebook page will have information about the lead water filters, with an explanation from city officials.
“They have also offered to host and come and do lead blood sampling if we want,” Bazman said. “And they have two grant programs for abatement, so, we have water testing sampling kits for people who want to have their water tested, and if it does show that there is lead, and they don’t have lead leads, or that is not the source, if they are income-eligible, they can get grants to remediate the paint, update the plumbing and things like that.”
Bazman said that while this is a good opportunity to get lead water filters in people’s homes, it is also a good opportunity to advocate for people who might not be able to afford the lead abatement in their residence.
“A lot of other cities have not been passing their water sampling, because they have changed the parameters,” Bazman said. “They were trying to use a method so that they could identify where all the lead leads were. They thought by modifying their process, that that would help.”
Bazman said supplying bottled water to the city for two weeks would cost $500,000.
“I asked them, ‘What would you do after two weeks? Would you stop giving people bottled water?’ and there wasn’t a real answer,” Bazman said. “That was a very stressful week last week.”
Bazman said if the city had reached a certain lead threshold, the entire city would have been supplied with bottled water, by the state, from a contracted supplier. However, Bazman said that after the re-testing on Oct. 17, the decision was made Oct. 18 to go with the water filters instead.
City Councilman Steve Densmore asked if the police and fire station, which are occupied 24 hours a day, would receive a prioritized water lead testing.
Bazman said all of the city’s businesses would have water checked for lead and for the presence of lead service lines.
Bazman said that since the city will have a new mayor and council in November, she wanted to take the initial steps to solve the problem now, so there would be something to hand off to the new administration.
The city has been testing tap water for lead and copper since 1992 for homes with a lead water service line.
The city will now be adding 60 additional samples every six months to the water lead sampling, to determine if corrective action is needed.
Lead can enter tap water when it comes in contact with pipes, solder, interior plumbing, fittings and fixtures which contain lead. Having a lead service line leading into a home increases the risk of having elevated lead levels in tap water. The more time water sits in a pipe, the more lead it may contain.
If a house does not contain a lead service line, run water for 30 seconds to two minutes if it has not been run for several hours, before using it for drinking or food preparation.
A house with a lead line should run the water for at least five minutes to flush out the pipes in the house and from the service line.
A longer time to flush out water in the pipes is recommended if the water hasn’t been run for a day or more.
Children and pregnant women should exercise caution, and should consider using a filter recommend for lead reduction for drinking water, cooking and preparation of baby formula.
Boiling water will not change the amount of lead in it.
To learn whether your house has a lead service line, call the Melvindale Water Department at 313-429-1064, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Other sources of lead in drinking water can come from copper pipe with lead solder, older faucets, goose neck and pigtail pipes which connect a service line to the main house line, and the inside of galvanized pipes upon which lead particles have adhered to the surface.
Prior to June 2018, Michigan followed federal lead and copper rules. Now, all service lines bringing tap water into a house must be inventoried to determine if they are made of lead, plastic or copper. Residents with a lead service line must be notified within 30 days of the discovery.
New rules also require all lead service lines, from the main to the house, on both public and private property to be replaced. Lead gooseneck and pigtail pipes must also be replaced.
Department of Public Works Director Larrie Ordus said in the past, the city only had to replace the service line from the main to the curb box. He said that under the new rules, the service line must be replaced 18 inches into the house.
Galvanized service line pipes – steel pipes with a zinc coating – must also be replaced.
The state has mandated 5 percent of lead service lines be replaced each year, so that in 20 years, all will be replaced. Bazman said at the city council meeting that Melvindale is being asked to replace 7 percent per year, which she said will cost $250,000 per year.
Ordus said the city has about 1,500 lead leads which need to be replaced.
Testing collection rules also have changed. In the past, only the first liter of water out of the tap would be tested. Now, the first and the fifth liter are tested from homes with lead service lines, since the fifth liter is more likely to show any particles entering the water while it is in the service line.
“GLWA has clean water – some of the cleanest water in the city,” Bazman said. “I felt very confident that we are getting a good product. We just have to check everyone’s house to make sure that it is not something from their lead (service line) that is causing the lead, or that they don’t have some issues internally with faucets that are 10 years old, that can (contain) lead.”
Bazman said they will test the house tap water for residents who want their water checked for lead now, and added that test kits are available for purchase at home improvement stores.
“We want to assure the residents that we are doing everything that we need to do, and we are here to support them,” Bazman said. “I think that the state and the county all concur with that same attitude, that they are going to do whatever it takes to make people comfortable and feel safe.”
Bazman said a nurse from the health department will be available to test the blood of children for lead, and residents will be able to arrange for someone to come to their house and check for lead paint, and income qualified people can apply for a grant for lead removal and remediation.
Bazman said the health department will have staff on hand when the water filters are distributed to explain other places where lead can be in a house. She said it helps residents know what to prioritize, such as replacing galvanized pipes.
Bazman said the water testing for lead is an effective way to find and then replace the lead service lines bringing water from the mains into houses. She said the challenge is the $250,000 a year it will cost Melvindale to replace all of the lead service lines.
“Let’s use this for all the services that they are going to provide us, and get with our low-income families and get their kids the blood test, have them come out and look at your house, get your lead-based paint and your plumbing looked at, and if you can get a grant to get that replaced to make your home safe, at no cost to you, then do it if you can,” Bazman said.
For more information about Michigan lead and copper rules for water pipes and water testing, go to graham.umich.edu/media/files/Lead-and-Copper-Rule-Info-Brochure-LTR-042319.pdf.
Additional information about water regulations and lead safety are on the Environmental Great Lakes and Energy website at michigan.gov/deqleadpublicadvisory or Michigan.gov/MILeadSafe.