Following the recent concerns regarding lead in water in Benton Harbor and Hamtramck, the City of Dearborn reminds residents that a representative sample of lead water service lines within the city are tested yearly, and the results have always came back within acceptable federal levels.
The City of Dearborn works closely with the regional water supplier, the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), to meet water quality standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). GLWA ranks among the top 10 water suppliers in the country for quality and value.
Testing process and results
To assure the federal and state lead limits are met, all drinking water systems that have lead service lines must test a selected representative pool.
For Dearborn, this means 100 homes will be tested annually. If 90 percent of the 100 tested service lines are below the action level, the water system is deemed to be within EPA guidelines. If more than 10 percent are above this action level, service line replacement, public education and other mitigation efforts must take place.
The process consists of testing a first draw and fifth draw of one liter of water. This is because the fifth liter is intended to be more representative of water in contact with the service line.
For the past 30 years, the City of Dearborn’s tested water supply has come back below the action level.
Corrosion control efforts by GLWA
In addition to testing, efforts are made to ensure that lead does not enter into the water in the first place.
The water that GLWA delivers to Dearborn does not contain lead. However, lead can leach into drinking water through home plumbing fixtures and, in some cases, customer service lines. GLWA uses corrosion control techniques to ensure that lead does not enter the water in this manner.
Orthophosphates are added to water during the treatment process to create a protective coating in service pipes throughout the system.
State mandate to replace lead service lines
A State mandate passed in January 2020 requires all cities in Michigan over the next 20 years to replace water service lines that are made out of lead. This state rule will impact thousands of homes in Dearborn in the next two decades, including the portions of water service lines that are on private property.
The water service lines between the sidewalk and the house were the responsibility of the private home owner, not the City. However, the rule requires the City to replace the lead water service line from the City water line (usually in the street) to 18 inches inside the basement.
Residents asked to complete survey on water service lines
Residents who have not yet done so should complete a survey indicating the type of water service line they have online at https://tinyurl.com/w7uy65p9 or by calling 313-943-2301.
What individuals can do if they believe lead is in their water
If individuals suspect they have lead in their drinking water, they may arrange to have it tested at their own expense by calling Paragon Laboratory at 734-465-3900, or RTI Laboratory at 734-422-8000.
Residents may also be eligible to have their home added to the City’s pool of representative samples, and the water would then be tested annually with the results provided to the resident free of charge.
To see if you are eligible, please contact our Backflow/ Water Quality division at 313-943-2308.
In addition, NSF filters can be used to eliminate potential lead in your water. Individuals can search if a water filter is NSF-certified at https://info.nsf.org/Certified/DWTU/.
Residents can find more resources related to lead water services lines, including the most recent water quality report, on the City’s website at https://cityofdearborn.org/articles/1740-lead-water-service-line-resources.
Background of the use of lead to make water service lines
Lead was the common material for making water lines connected to homes in the early 1900s. For millennia, lead has been used to make cooking and eating utensils dating back thousands of years. With modern science, much has been learned regarding the impact of lead on human health, especially in children under six years old.
There has been a steady march to reduce human exposure to lead in the last 70 years. In 1972, the use of lead to make water service lines was banned.
Prior to 1991 the EPA safe action level of lead in drinking water was 50 parts per billion (ppb). In 1991 the EPA reduced the “action level” further to 15 ppb as a safe level of lead in drinking water. Even though the 15 ppb is still considered acceptable, the goal in Michigan is to eliminate all lead service lines used in public drinking water systems within the next 20 years.
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