Significant levels of lead found in 9 Highland Park homes; Residents urged to flush lines

Northville water main repair postponed, no boil water advisory
Posted at 8:02 AM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 15:39:51-04

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — The city of Highland Park is urging residents to get their water tested and to flush out their water lines after sampling this summer found several homes with lead levels above the action level.

According to the city, they test the water every three years for lead and copper, and this summer, they collected samples from 36 homes.

The Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Energy (formerly the DEQ), evaluates compliance with the action level based on the 90th percentile of lead and copper results in each round of sampling. According to the city, the lead 90th percentile for Highland Park was 57 parts per billion (ppb), which is much higher than the action level of 15 ppb.

The city said the action level is a level that triggers additional actions, including increased sampling and education outreach.

According to the city, nine homes were over the Action Level, and Highland Park is now telling residents that they should let water run to flush out the lead.

The tips they have include:

  • Run your water to flush out the lead-containing water.
  • If you do not have a lead service line, run the water for thirty (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 your home of building’s plumbing and the lead service line.
  • Use cold water for drinking, cooking, or preparing baby formula.
  • Public health recommends that any household with a child or pregnant woman use a certified lead filter to remove lead from their drinking water. Look for filters that are tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction. If you are not able to afford the cost of a lead filter, please contact the Wayne County Health Department at (734) 727-7100.
  • Do not boil your water as boiling will not reduce the amount of lead in water.
  • Check whether your home has a lead service line.

Our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi had the following information about the health effects.

Question: Lead can cause serious health concerns, can you share what they are?

I find this to be very concerning not just as a physician, but as a father too. Because lead can absolutely be dangerous, especially for young children - I have a couple of them at home right now – and their smaller bodies can absorb lead more easily than adults. Now lead is toxic. It causes problems when it enters your bloodstream and elevates your blood lead level. It can harm the production of blood cells and can affect almost every organ in your body. It can damage your kidneys and nervous system if the lead levels are high enough. And one of the greatest risks is to the brain, as lead may affect development and cause irreversible damage. Now very high levels can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, even death. And for women who are pregnant, lead can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and affect the baby’s behavior and intelligence. This makes it very personal for me, since my wife is carrying our fourth child.

Question: How can people find out if they have high levels of lead in their bodies – are there symptoms to look for?

It’s can be hard to detect lead poisoning, people can look healthy yet have high blood levels of lead. And unfortunately, symptoms don’t always appear until a dangerous amount of lead has accumulated. For adults, you can experience headaches, stomach pain, joint and muscle pain and memory loss or difficulty with concentration. Kids can experience things like irritability, loss of appetite, hearing loss, and learning difficulties. Now if you’re concerned about lead poisoning, please talk to your doctor, as it can be detected by a simple blood test.

Question: Can lead poisoning be treated?

Small amounts can be treated easily as the body will naturally get rid of it. People with high levels of lead may need chelation therapy, it’s a medication that attaches to the lead which then exits the body through urine. I’m really glad that the City of Highland Park is taking steps to alert residents of lead levels in city water because we really don’t want what happened to those who live in Flint, to happen ever again.

The city said they will continue to give information notices about lead in drinking water, and they will be collecting 60 samples every six months and reviewing the results to determine if they need to take corrective action.

Those who are Highland Park Water Department customers and want their water tested or have their service line expected can call them at 313-867-1876. Water filters are available at the Highland Park Fire Department.

To learn more about lead in water, visit the EPA's website here.