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lead and copper rule

State of Michigan

For the third consecutive year, Flint water is testing below state and federal action levels for lead, according to data the state released on Wednesday.

In the first half of 2016, at the height of the city’s water crisis, Flint’s 90th percentile result for lead-in-water samples was 20 parts per billion.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

When you call the city of Melvindale’s Department of Water and Public Works these days, you’ll hear a message that goes like this:

“If you’re calling regarding recent lead sampling results for the city of Melvindale, please note that the water supply we are provided from Great Lakes Water [Authority] is safe. This applies to properties that have lead service lines going into their home.”

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Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

A Michigan Court of Claims judge has dismissed a case that would have undone the state’s new Lead and Copper Rule.

The rule went into effect last year. It toughens standards for lead in water, has more stringent sampling requirements, and requires water utilities to pay for replacing all lead service lines by 2040.

Birmingham issues lead advisory for tap water

Oct 8, 2019
Rudy and Peter Skitterians / Pixabay

Another municipality in Michigan is alerting residents about elevated levels of lead in drinking water and telling them about ways they can reduce their exposure to it.

The public notice was triggered by water testing done by the city of Birmingham in September.

Filling a sample bottle.
Virginia Tech

Michigan cities and towns with lead water pipes will have to start taking more and better drinking water samples this summer. About 650 municipal water systems are testing for lead in water beginning in June.

The changes are part of a larger effort to strengthen the lead in water standards after the Flint water crisis. Michigan now has the toughest standards in the country.

Read more: Ripple Effects of the Flint Water Crisis

flickr/ruimc / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

The city of Battle Creek could be the latest in Michigan to move forward on replacing water pipes that contain lead. City Commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a contract to replace the pipes at 93 addresses across the city. The city is deciding whether to spend $311,670 for the work.

A graph shows three years of test results for lead in water, with the most recent tests, in 2018, clearly being the most elevated.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor is offering to test the water at any home in the city, after initial tests showed elevated levels of lead in eight homes.

Lara Moehlman / Michigan Radio

After reporting on the Flint water crisis, there’s one question people have asked me over and over: Should I be worried about lead in my tap water?

We can look at the numbers cities provide in annual reports. But those numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

drinking fountain
Flickr

Students across Michigan are heading back to school this month, and in some cities, students won’t be getting their water out of drinking fountains.

In August, Detroit Public Schools Community District announced that all drinking water in the district would be shut off indefinitely after elevated lead and copper levels were discovered. As of September 19, results found elevated levels in water fixtures at 57 of 86 schools tested so far. And in Flint, the public schools plan to continue using water bottles until January.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A report by the EPA’s Inspector General blames “management weakness” for delays in the federal agency’s response to the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report is calling for more to be done to improve drinking water quality at the nation’s child care centers.

The Environmental Defense Fund tested water samples from child day care facilities in four states, including Michigan. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three communities in Michigan are taking a much closer look for lead in their drinking water this year.

MDEQ releases watered-down lead and copper standard

May 11, 2018
Work crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality updated its proposed lead and copper rule to allow utilities more flexibility in scheduling replacement of lead service lines. It also increased the lead action level from the original 10 parts per billion to 12 ppb. The federal action level is 15.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last week, Michigan Radio published a story about the Village of Beverly Hills, Michigan; a Detroit suburb located in southern Oakland County. The village currently has the highest 90th percentile for lead in water in the state.

Two women
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Jennifer Gilchrist moved from New York City back home to the Detroit suburb of Beverly Hills in 2016. She moved to help take care of her mom Joellen, a retired Detroit high school teacher, and to fix up her childhood home.

That’s when a plumber told them they had a lead service line.

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

The Department of Environmental Quality is making a final call for public comments on revisions to the state’s lead in drinking water regulations. The deadline to submit comments on the proposed changes has been extended to Wednesday, March 21 at 5 p.m.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality should update its rules on the level of lead that’s considered acceptable in drinking water.

That is the one thing most everyone at a public hearing in Lansing Thursday night did agree on.

But many Flint activists and environmentalists say the proposed changes to lead rules don’t go far enough. Others, especially those running community water systems, say changes go way too far, presenting major legal and cost issues.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward with proposed changes to the lead and copper rule. If approved, Michigan would hold the toughest regulations on lead in drinking water in the nation.

Among the policy revisions is a motion to lower the acceptable lead level in a community’s tap water. If the law passes, the “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead would drop to 10 ppb.

”Though no amount lead is safe in water, reducing that down is going to be very important,” says Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.

the flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In Flint, Michigan, hundreds of people have filed lawsuits over that city's lead water crisis. They're seeking damages that range from property value losses to brain damage in kids. 

Most of the lawsuits have been consolidated into one massive case. Thursday, a federal district judge in Ann Arbor ordered all the parties into mediation.

That could conceivably get money to victims much faster. 

One of the plaintiffs is 72-year-old Elnora Carthan.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is vowing to strengthen lead-in-water rules because of the Flint water crisis. At a public meeting in Lansing Wednesday night, state regulators said they cannot wait on the federal government to finish its own version of the new rules.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is unveiling changes to lead in water rules this week.

Communities in Michigan with lead water pipes will have special interest in a public meeting Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality is hosting Wednesday night.

There are lead service lines in older communities across Michigan. Because of their age and population size, it’s fair to say the bulk of Michigan’s lead service lines are in cities in Southeast Michigan.

I spent a lot of time trying to determine which Detroit suburbs have lead service lines and how many. I wanted to see how far out into the suburbs lead was found in underground water pipes.

It was relatively easy (albeit an expensive FOIA bill near $2000 for these "public documents") to track down which communities were testing lead lines. But figuring out how many lead pipes were in each community is nearly impossible.

notices
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

1992 LCR document from Battle Creek
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

One of the things Flint’s water operators got in trouble for was falsifying records; for saying the city was testing homes at the highest risk of having elevated lead levels when it was not. But records obtained by Michigan Radio show Flint is not the only city in the state that tested the wrong homes over the years and potentially underestimated lead in water.

The biggest culprit for high lead in tap water is the lead water pipes that connect a house to the water main. That’s why cities are supposed to test those homes.

construction workers
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Public and political pressure from the Flint water crisis is beginning to shape new, tougher water regulations in Michigan - and other states are taking notice.

If passed, they’d be the strongest such measures in the country.

Two years ago, when news broke about the Flint water crisis, lots of people wondered if Michigan’s governor would resign. That’s because emails show Rick Snyder’s top aides had concerns about Flint’s water long before pediatricians and scientists proved there was a huge problem.

Water faucent in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s drinking water regulators need more resources to do their jobs correctly. That’s one of the major takeaways of a detailed federal audit released Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the audit almost two years ago, right after the state at least started to acknowledge that there was a serious problem with Flint’s drinking water.

Lead service line
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Most water systems operators around the state had a hint this was coming.

The Flint water crisis has reverberated among water professionals working from Muskegon and Grand Haven all through the state and to the Detroit metro area; where the bulk of the state's drinking water lines are still buried.

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

A teacher is suing Detroit Public Schools for allegedly retaliating against her after she reported unsafe water at her school, John R. King Academy. 

According to the lawsuit, in the spring of 2016, Detroit Public Schools shut down water fountains in more than a dozen schools after high levels of lead or copper – or both – were found in the drinking water. 

John R. King Academy had too much copper. 

Flint Mayor Weaver, Lansing Mayor Bernaro, and Ret. Brig. Gen. Michael McDaniel stand next to the lead pipe.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Flint’s pipe replacement program faces a critical deadline at the end of this week.

By Friday, Flint needs to replace its 2,037th lead or galvanized service line.

That would be approximately 7% of the estimated number of suspect pipes tied to the city’s lead tainted tap water crisis.

The mandated 7% threshold is part of the federal Lead and Copper Rule.  

Lead service line
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor is approaching a milestone of sorts. The city is replacing the last of its lead connections in the water system.

Ann Arbor city officials say they never allowed full lead service lines, the water pipes buried underground that connect homes to the water main.

Where are lead water pipes in Michigan? Here’s our best guess

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