New Lead Standard In MI Drinking Water Accelerates Removal Efforts

Lansing, MI - The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has announced that the state’s most-protective-in-the-nation Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is yielding valuable data that will help communities throughout the state get lead out of drinking water.

In addition to EGLE’s ongoing work to assist the City of Benton Harbor reduce lead levels in the municipal water system, EGLE this month engaged in compliance discussions with several other Michigan communities that have tested above water quality standards for lead. EGLE expects to see additional exceedances of the LCR, which was adopted by the legislature in 2018.

“The new rule requires communities to test the fifth liter of water drawn from a tap in addition to the first liter to more accurately measure lead in water held in lead service lines outside the home as well as the water sitting in fixtures inside the home,” said Eric Oswald, director of EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division (DWEHD). “Of those two samples, the one with the highest lead level is then used to calculate that community’s 90th-percentile sample – the state criteria for exceedances.”

Exceedances occur when the water sample representing the 90th-highest percentile is above the state action threshold of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in a sampling period. For example, if 60 samples are collected, the 54th-highest sample is used to determine the 90th percentile value. The 15 ppb limit is known as the action level.

Under the LCR, any community water system exceeding 15 ppb for the 90th percentile is required to immediately notify water customers of the testing results and take action to reduce lead in the drinking water system.

In addition to immediate actions to improve water system operations to reduce lead exposures, a key requirement of the LCR is the removal of all lead service line infrastructure in the state. Water systems are required to prioritize lead service lines for removal, replace the entire line from the water main to the residence at no cost to residents and to complete a service line material inventory by 2025 so EGLE can track compliance with the rule.

Communities with exceedances of the 15 ppb action level have additional requirements, including accelerated lead service line replacement from 5% of a system’s lines to 7% of a system’s lead service lines if corrosion control treatment is in place, alerting all water system customers of the exceedance, increasing the number and frequency of lead testing, and establishing corrosion control treatment (if not already established) to minimize lead that leaches from service lines and plumbing fixtures.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), in partnership with local government and health departments, has developed and is implementing public health actions in response to lead action level exceedances throughout the state. Within Wayne, Manchester and Hamtramck specifically, public health actions will include:

  • Distribution of certified lead reducing filters and replacements (in conjunction with filter usage and maintenance education efforts)
  • Surveillance of child and adult blood lead data 
  • Use of nurse case management practices on identified children with elevated lead in blood
  • Conduction of tap water testing within these communities
  • Home lead investigations to identify other lead sources within the community, and
  • Health Education and Community Outreach – in conjunction with area partnering agencies, conduct targeted heath education and community outreach to help families protect themselves from lead hazards

 Communities with recent lead exceedances include:

  • City of Hamtramck, with a 90th percentile value of 17 parts per billion (ppb), above the 15-ppb federal action level
  • City of Wayne, with a 90th percentile value of 16
  • City of Manchester with an 90th percentile value of 31
  • Mills Township with a 90th percentile value of 20
  • Lakeside Apartments (Oakland County) with a 90th percentile value of 18
  • Cedar Hill Assisted Living (Delta County) with a 90th percentile value of 49
  • L’Arbre Croche Club (Emmett County) with a 90th percentile value of 17

 The state has also accelerated a massive support and assistance effort in Benton Harbor, where high lead levels in the aging drinking water system have triggered three consecutive years of exceedances. Samples from the most recent Benton Harbor 6-month sampling period are being collected and will be made public once they have undergone official review.

Over the last year Michigan has secured $207 million as part of the MI Clean Water plan for lead service line replacement, infrastructure upgrades and water system improvements to help reduce and eventually eliminate lead in Michiganders’ drinking water.

Jim Nash, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, said the state’s work to identify lead problems and help communities solve them is a positive step toward protecting public health.

“Like EGLE, safe water is our most important mission,” Nash said. “When one of our Oakland County communities with issues of water affordability tested above the lead standard last year, we started a process of expedited lead line removal. To remove lead lines with minimum impact on rate payers we sought state and county help. We have now received a $3 million refundable state loan and are working on a grant from the county to help with other costs. We are expecting to replace all the lead lines in the next two years.”

For more information, visit the Mi Lead Safe page, which includes information on Benton Harbor bottled water distribution.

To view lead sampling results from Michigan communities, see EGLE’s Water Supply Lead Results page.

To see sampling results from Benton Harbor from 2018-present, visit this data link.

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