By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – City officials need to begin to plan, fund and replace lead service lines, which carry drinking water from water mains into houses, Department of Public Works Director Larrie Ordus said.
Ordus brought the new council members up to speed at the Nov. 20 City Council meeting, explaining that the way the state of Michigan is testing for lead in drinking water has changed.
“A lot of cities failed the test,” Ordus said. “We had nine out of 30 that were a little bit over the limit, and now we have to (replace) 7 percent of our lead services a year, of which we have about 1,500, so you are talking 107 a year.”
Ordus said recent bids indicate $5,000 to replace each lead service line, which means it would cost about $500,000 to replace 100 lead service lines. He said he hopes to replace all of the city’s lead service lines over the next 10 years.
“I need some direction from you,” Ordus told the council. “I have some plans we can put into effect. We have got over 1,500 (lines), and if you multiply that by the $5,000, it’s $7.5 million that you are going to have to spend on water services.”
Ordus told the council that service line replacement needs to begin next year. He said the council can compare the cost of doing the work with an outside contractor versus doing the work with city employees.
“It has to be completed within 10 years,” Ordus said. “If we did an in-house program, I am looking at five years. That is something we will make a decision on next year.”
Ordus suggested that the city start to replace lead service lines, per the state’s mandate, while it applies for grant money to replace the balance of the lines.
“We just can’t avoid it,” Ordus said. “I didn’t want to ruin your first day, but it has to be addressed.”
Ordus said he could do the work in-house by hiring four people and using the small excavator which he has budgeted to purchase.
Ordus said the $5,000 quoted by a vendor includes labor, material and restoration of the yard.
Mayor Wheeler Marsee noted that the city’s DPW needs a new excavator anyway.
Ordus said the state provided grant money to install new water meters, but declined a grant request to replace old fire hydrants, so getting state funding is unpredictable.
He said he would bring a proposal to the next city council meeting for the body to vote on.
Three weeks earlier, at an Oct. 30 town hall meeting for Melvindale residents, moderated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, state officials explained how the state has implemented a new type of sampling for lead in water.
By running tap water longer, while it takes sequential samples of water, samplers are able to discover if the service line is made of lead, and is allowing lead to enter into tap water.
The first sequential sample of water can show lead that enters tap water from a faucet, while the second or third sample can reveal lead that enters tap water from the pipes within a house, whether from lead pipes or lead solder on copper pipes. The sixth or seventh sequential sample can then measure lead which enters tap water from the service line that carries water from the main into a house.
To reach the drinking water investigation unit of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, call 800-648-6942, and call 800-662-9275 to reach the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
To learn more about environmental lead, go to Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.