Birmingham alerts water users over lead testing
Five Birmingham homes showed levels above the new state standard – 15 parts per billion – for the lead service pipes which bring water to the homes, Birmingham officials announced on Monday, October 7, triggering a public advisory and public education campaign for residents. Since 1992, the city has regularly tested for lead and copper. Out of 8,870 total water customers, approximately 550 houses with lead pipes connect to the city's water main, city manager Joe Valentine said. During that time, he said, the city's results have never exceeded the state standard. However, in 2018, the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act (MSDWA) was changed to include more stringent procedures for testing and analysis for lead and copper. The new regulations are intended to have a more proactive approach in monitoring each community’s lead and copper levels. The new state lead standard is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The state requires cities whose testing exceeds the new standard to provide a public education campaign advising homeowners of actions they can take to mitigate any lead that may come from their pipes. As a result of these changes, Birmingham and other Michigan cities expected that exclusively testing homes with lead service pipes would have lead levels that now exceed new state standards. In September, Valentine said that Birmingham, in accordance with MSDWA, tested 32 of the 550 homes, and five of the homes tested at 17 ppb. “As a proactive measure, the city is alerting all of its water customers, whether their house has lead service pipes or not, on practical steps they can take to reduce the risk to lead exposure, particularly for those whose houses have lead service pipes,” Valentine said. “While the action level exceedance is not a health-based standard nor a violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, we do want the public to be aware of this change, our results and what it means to them. The intent is not to scare the public, but let them know the city is proactively working to test and address known lead service leads in the city and work with property owners who want to improve water quality in their homes.” At the Birmingham City Commission meeting on Monday, October 7, Valentine explained that Birmingham is the first community in Michigan to complete the lead and copper testing. All abatement must be completed by 2041. “Birmingham has many old homes, and when they were built, they were done with products that leached lead,” he said. “It's expected that when we're done with all of the testing, about 500-600 homes out of about 9,000 residences in Birmingham may have lead service leads. The source of the water has not changed, and the water has not changed. It's just a proactive action by the state.” In addition to the water lead service line into homes, galvanized piping, copper pipes, and faucets may have soldering with lead. “Those are really the only ways to get lead,” Valentine said. On Wednesday, October 8, in conjunction with Oakland County Health Division, the city will provide complementary water filters or economically disadvantaged members of the city who meet state-mandated thresholds from 4-7 p.m. at Birmingham City Hall. To qualify, a household must have at least one of the following: a child under 18 living at the home; a child under 18 spending several hours every week at least three months of the year there; or a pregnant woman. In addition, the household must have at least one of the following: someone receiving WIC benefits and/or Medicaid insurance; difficulty affording a filter and replacement cartridges. Filters cost about $35 and replacement cartridges about $15. If you have concerns about possible lead in your water line, the city has advise at its website at bhamgov.org/leadtesting. Among the advice is additional flushing may be advised if your home has been vacant or if you have a longer service line. Other advise includes: Run your water to flush out lead-containing water.
If you do not have a lead service line, run the water for 30 seconds to two minutes, or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature. If you do have a lead service line, run the water for at least five minutes to flush water from the plumbing of your home and the lead service line. Consider using a filter to reduce lead in water. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recommends that any household with an infant, young child, or pregnant woman use a certified lead filter to remove lead from their drinking water. Use cold water for drinking, cooking or preparing baby formula. Do not boil your water. Clean your faucet aerator to remove trapped debris. Check whether your home has a lead service line. You can contact the city’s engineering department at (248) 530-1840 for this information. Anyone with health-related questions can contact the Oakland County Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.