Birmingham has launched a new online tool to permit residents to easily check if their home's water service line could potentially have high lead levels.
The online tool was unveiled after five Birmingham homes showed levels above the new state standard – 15 parts per billion – for their lead service pipes which bring water to the homes out of 8,870 total water customers.
The city of Birmingham has made it easier for individual homeowners to check for your own water service line information courtesy of our GIS Mapping Database. A helpful instructional video on how to use the program can be found on the city's lead testing page: bhamgov.org/leadtesting.
Since 1992, the city has regularly tested for lead and copper. Approximately 550 houses with lead pipes connect to the city's water main, city manager Joe Valentine said in October when the higher lead levels were found. 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 many 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.”
The city held a community water forum at Seaholm High School in November, and has an action plan for testing drinking water for the new standards. They have now tested almost 800 properties that have lead service lines out of 9,000 total properties, which is approximately nine percent of water customers in Birmingham. “Once our inventory is completed, expected by January 1, 2020, we will notify all affected water customers and provide them with a complimentary water filter as an initial step, if they would like one. Anyone wishing to check their property to determine what their water service is made of can also visit our website to query their property,” the city website states.
For anyone with a lead service line that wants to replace their service ahead of the city’s schedule, the city has waived the associated permit fees. Concerned residents can contact the city’s engineering department at 248.530.1840 for more information on the waived permit fee initiative or go to bhamgov.org/leadtesting.