Lead And Your Drinking Water
Lead and Your Drinking Water
In January of 2019, the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act announced new water sampling requirements to better detect possible lead in drinking water. These changes require all communities with lead service lines and older housing stock to perform more-rigorous water sampling than has been done in the past, including increasing the number of sampling locations and the samples taken from each location. Prior to 2019, the City of Ferndale—and other cities like ours—were required to test water from five properties with lead service lines annually; we are now required to test 30. This new sampling method has resulted in higher lead results for some communities—not because the water source or quality has changed, but because of the stricter sampling procedures.
During the 2020 monitoring period, Ferndale’s Department of Public Works (DPW) collected samples from 31 properties with known lead service lines. Of these 31 properties, five were found to have 90th percentile lead concentration levels above the 15ppb (parts per billion) Action Level established by the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. This Action Level is not a health-based standard, but rather a level that triggers the need for additional actions, such as increased sampling. The City’s 90th percentile value was 30 ppb.
FERNDALE’S WATER SOURCE AND QUALITY IS UNCHANGED AND SAFE
It is important to understand that Ferndale’s water source and quality have not changed. The Action Level exceedance is a result of more-rigorous sampling procedures, and impacts only those properties with lead service lines, also known as the pipes that connect a home to the city’s water main. Ferndale has a total of 10,031 service line connections with an estimated 30%, or approximately 3,000, constructed with lead or lead-containing materials.
HOW THE CITY IS RESPONDING
In response to these results, the City will increase both the frequency of monitoring and the number of sites tested. This additional information will provide important data for state and city officials to determine what additional actions may be required to bring the 90th percentile value below 15ppb.
Additionally, in accordance with the state rules, we've been working on a plan to identify and inventory service lines throughout the City. Within the next six months, the City will begin replacing 7% of our lead service lines per year until all have been updated. Additional information regarding the new regulations and lead safety can be found on the EGLE website.
The City has launched an interactive GIS map that allows residents to search properties by address or parcel number to gain information about the material(s) of the home's pipe connection.
- The information contained in this mapping tool has been gathered through the City's meter replacement program. This program, and the information contained in the mapping tool, are still in progress. Information will be updated monthly, and your results may change.
- This tool uses the primary address of each parcel, so it may not display your exact address if there are multiple addresses associated with a single property.
- This map covers only the interior plumbing material up to the water meter. For those properties identified as copper, PVC, or pex, there is still a chance that a portion of the service line from the exterior of the property to the water main contains lead or galvanized previously connected to lead.
If your results are not available using the map, or if you want to verify your materials, the City has launched an online form to help you do so.
You'll be walked through several steps, including using a simple online testing process, taking and uploading a photo of your water meter, and answering several questions about your home and circumstances. The Department of Public Works will review your information and contact you with information about your home's water infrastructure.
OAKLAND COUNTY HEALTH DIVISION
Download a flier from the Oakland Co. Health Division to help determine if you are eligible for a filter from the state.
OAKLAND COUNTY HEALTH DIVISION: LABORATORY DRINKING WATER ANALYSIS
Bottles can be purchased from one of the County office locations during normal business hours. Their address and phone numbers are:
- North Oakland Health Center 1200 N. Telegraph Rd. Pontiac, MI 48341, (248) 858-1280
- South Oakland Center 27725 Greenfield Rd. Southfield, MI 48076, (248) 424-7000
Prices are as follows:
- County Residents (water source must be IN OAKLAND COUNTY):
Bacteriological $12, Partial Chemical $10, LEAD and COPPER $24, and Arsenic $16
- OUT OF COUNTY (water source outside of OAKLAND COUNTY):
Bacteriological $20, Partial Chemical $18
The Nurse on Call (NOC) hotline offers information about health and related resources. Calls are answered by Oakland County Health Division Public Health Nurses Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Contact NOC by calling 800-848-5533 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOCWA (SOUTH OAKLAND COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY)
OTHER STATE RESOURCES
Is Ferndale's water safe?
Yes. Ferndale’s water is the same; it comes from the same source and the quality remains at, or above, standard. The Action Level exceedance is a result of more-rigorous sampling procedures, and impacts only those properties with lead service lines. Lead can enter drinking water when in contact with older, lead-based pipes, solder, interior plumbing, and fittings and fixtures, particularly when the water has remained stagnant for extended periods of time. Properties with lead service lines have an increased risk of these issues.
Why are so many cities suddenly experiencing elevated lead results?
The recent lead issues are because of a significant increase in the required water sampling from properties with lead service lines. Prior to 2019, cities were required to test water from five properties with lead service lines annually; we are now required to test 30. This new sampling method has resulted in higher lead results for many communities—not because the water source or quality has changed, but because of the more-rigorous sampling procedures. Nothing has changed with the City’s water source or quality.
Can I have my water tested if I'm concerned?
What does the 90th percentile mean?
Michigan cities must have a 90th percentile lead level below the State's Action Level, which means that the concentration of lead must be less than or equal to the Action Level of 15 pbb in at least 90% of the samples collected.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
Although the results are site-specific and lead levels will vary between homes, there are several recommended actions you can take to reduce your exposure to lead.
- Run your water before consuming. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. If your water has not been used for several hours, run the water before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes stagnant water from the pipes. Additional flushing may be required for homes that have been vacant or have a longer service line.
- 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 your home or building’s plumbing and the lead service line.
- Consider using a filter. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends that any household with a child or pregnant woman use cold water and a certified lead filter to remove lead from their drinking water, especially when preparing baby formula. Look for filters that are tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction. Be sure to maintain and replace the filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality. If your household has a child or pregnant woman or if you are not able to afford the cost of a lead filter, the Oakland County Health Department will provide residents with one free of charge.
- Do not use hot water for drinking, preparing food, or cooking, or preparing baby formula.
- Do not boil your water as boiling will not reduce the amount of lead in water.
- Clean your faucet aerator to remove trapped debris.
- Check whether your home has a lead service line. If you are unsure whether your home is serviced by a lead service line, the following link provides a useful tool to assist you in determining your home’s service line material. You can also contact the City’s Department of Public Works at 248-546-2519 for this information.
- Have your water tested for lead. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) published a list of state laboratories that are certified for lead testing. The Oakland County Health Division also offers testing kits. For more information, contact the Oakland County Health Division at (248) 858-1280. Health-related questions can be directed to the Oakland County Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533 or NOC@oakgov.com.