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Officials: Water in Birmingham, White Lake Township 'exceed acceptable lead levels'

Posted: 6:45 PM, Oct 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-23 15:38:59-04

(WXYZ) — Residents in Birmingham and White Lake Township are on alert after testing found that water exceeded acceptable lead levels for municipal water systems. Now the Oakland County Health Division is assisting these municipalities in order to get those water systems back in compliance with lead standards.

According to a release, the high lead levels were uncovered after there was routine testing done, which is required by the Michigan Department of Environment and Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) under Michigan's Safe Drinking Water Act.

“The quality of our drinking water is paramount and we stand ready to support our local communities with these and future test results,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said. “Oakland County Health Division is working with communities to help them comply with revised lead rules, including distributing NSF-certified water filters to qualified households and to educate the public.”

The announcement was made Monday.

The city of Birmingham has notified customers of a water advisory, and released the below statement:

The Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act has changed to better protect your health. New water sampling rules have been added to better detect possible lead in your drinking water. These changes require communities with lead service lines to do more sampling.This new sampling method is expected to result in higher lead results, not because the water source or quality for residents has changed, but because the Act has more stringent sampling procedures and analysis.

The City ofBirmingham has been conducting testing of tap water in homes with lead service lines for lead and copper in accordance with this Act since 1992.In September 2019, the City collected samples from 32 sites with known lead service leads out of approximately 8,870 total water customers in the city. Of the 8,870 water customers there are approximately 6% (roughly 550 customers) with lead service leads. Five (5) of the thirty-two (32) targeted sites tested exceeded the Action Level of 15 ppb (parts per billion).

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy or EGLE (formally the MDEQ) evaluates compliance with the Action Level based on the 90th percentile of all lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling. As a result of testing under this new method, the lead 90th percentile for the City of Birmingham water supply is 17 parts per billion (ppb), which exceeds the Action Level of 15 ppb. This does not mean every customer has elevated lead levels. An Action Level exceedance means that more than 10% of the samples tested under the new testing method have elevated lead levels.

The City had five (5) of the targeted thirty-two (32) sites with known lead service leads report elevated lead results.The “Action Level” is not a health-based standard, but it is a level that triggers additional actions including, but not limited to, increased investigative sampling of water quality and educational outreach to customers. This is NOT a violation of the MichiganSafe Drinking Water Act. Because five (5) sites were over the Action Level for lead, the City of Birmingham would like to share some ways you can reduce your exposure to lead since lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water and other sources.

Below are some recommended actions to help reduce lead exposure. Lead can enter drinking water when in contact with pipes, solder, home/building interior plumbing, fittings and fixtures that contain lead. Homes with lead service lines have an increased risk of having high lead levels in drinking water. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Therefore, if your water has not been used for several hours, run the water before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes. Additional flushing may be required for homes that have been vacant or have a longer service line.

Preventative measures are being taken going forward. Those include:

  • Municipalities, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), and OCHD are conducting water sampling and investigations.
  • The Health Division is coordinating distribution of free water filter kits and providing public education to qualifying households. To qualify for a filter the household must:

> Receive water from a Lead Action Exceedance area.
> Have a pregnant woman or at least one child under age 18 living or spending several hours in the home weekly who receives WIC benefits, Medicaid health insurance, or has difficulty affording a filter ($35) or replacement cartridges ($15).

> Water filter kits will be available to Birmingham and White Lake residents who qualify at the following locations:
>> Birmingham: Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 4:00-7:00 p.m. at Birmingham City Hall, 151 Martin St. Birmingham
>> White Lake: Thursday, October 10, 2019, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Lakeland High School, 1630 Bogie Lake Rd., White Lake

  • Answering public questions:

> Water testing/lead service line questions: City of Birmingham Engineering Department at (248) 530-1840 or White Lake Township Department of Public Services at 248-698-3300 ext. 171.
> Health related questions: Oakland County Health Division’s Nurse on Call at 1-800-848-3355 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. or oakgov.com/health [links.govdelivery.com].

  • Oakland County Health Division has a laboratory that is certified to test residents’ water for lead and copper.

There will be an investigation into the source of the lead exposure, along with public education efforts, health officials say.

"Though we only operate 17 drinking water systems in Oakland County, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will work with all Oakland County communities in their efforts to educate the public and develop their responses. We stand ready to help,” said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash.

Here is a list of things that can be done to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water:

  • If you suspect that your home's plumbing or faucets could contain lead or lead-based solder, you should have your water tested.
  • Replace faucets with those made in 2014 or later or marked “NSF 61/9” since they meet stricter limits.
  • Flush your cold-water pipes by running the water for approximately five minutes. The longer the water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it may contain. You can fill containers for later use, after the flushing process.
  • Use only filtered water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula.
  • You may choose to install a water filter that is certified for lead removal. If a water filter is installed, replace filters at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Check and confirm in the packaging materials that the filter is certified for lead removal by the NSF international at http://nsf.org [links.govdelivery.com]
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling will not remove the lead.
  • Use bottled water for drinking and cooking. Commercially prepared bottled water that meets federal and state drinking water standards are recommended.
  • Clean aerators. Aerators are small attachments at the tops of faucets which regulate flow of water. They can accumulate small particles of lead in their screens. Remove and sanitize monthly.

For more information, visit www.oakgov.com .