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Samples from St. Clair Shores municipal water system show lead levels in water exceeding state standards

Of 25,303 water customers, there are roughly 656 customers with lead service lines

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(Lars Baron/Getty Images)

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – The City of St. Clair Shores released a public advisory Monday for its 25,303 water customers after testing water samples from known locations with lead service lines.

Results showed that four of the 32 targeted sites tested exceeded the Action Level based on the 15 parts per billion. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy or EGLE evaluates compliance with the action level based on the 90th percentile of all lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling.

As a result of testing under a new method, the lead 90th percentile for the city of St. Clair Shores water supply is 21 parts per billion, which exceeds the action level of 15 parts per billion.

In 2018, the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act’s Lead and Copper Rule was changed to better protect the health of Michiganders. New water sampling rules were added to better detect possible lead in drinking water.

These changes require communities with lead service lines to increase the number of sampling locations and draw multiple samples from each location. This new sampling method was expected to result in higher lead results, not because the water source or quality for residents has changed, but because the act has more stringent sampling procedures and analysis.

The City of St. Clair Shores has been conducting testing of tap water in homes with lead service lines for lead and copper in accordance with this Act since 1992.

Of the 25,303 water customers, there are approximately 2.5% (roughly 656 customers) with lead service lines. The city had four of the targeted 32 sites with known lead service lines report elevated lead levels. The city contacted the homeowners with elevated lead levels and provided them with their sampling results. The city also will provide complimentary faucet filters or pitcher filters to any water customer verified to have lead service lines in their home.

Starting next year, the city will begin replacing lead service lines at a rate of 7% per year. The mayor and city council will also review proposals to expedite the replacement of the lead service lines.

This does not mean that every customer has elevated lead levels. An Action Level exceedance means that more than 10% of the samples tested under the new testing method have elevated lead levels. The Action Level exceedance in the City’s sampling was found in water that had been sitting in the lead material or galvanized material service line pipe overnight.

“Although less than 3 percent of our water customers are affected, we want to be proactive and alert all of our water customers—whether their house has lead service lines or not—to be vigilant and take steps to reduce the risk of any lead exposure,” said St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby.

“We will continue testing and provide our citizens with information and public education about lead in drinking water and what we as water consumers can do to minimize the risk in our own homes.”

The “Action Level” is not a health-based standard, but it is a level that triggers additional actions including, but not limited to, increased investigative sampling of water quality and educational outreach to customers. This is not a violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.

To start the public education process, the City has set up a dedicated webpage on its website at https://www.scsmi.net/892/SCS-Lead-Safe that features information and links to lead-specific resources.

City hosting St. Clair Shores lead safe open house

The event is taking place on Thursday, Nov. 7 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center at 20000 Stephens between I-94 and Little Mack.

Residents can meet one-on-one with representatives from the Macomb Health Department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the City of St. Clair Shores to discuss lead-related health concerns and water service lines on individual properties. Complimentary faucet filters or pitcher filters will be available to citizens who meet the following State-mandated qualifications:

1) A child under 18 lives at the address

2) A child under 18 frequently spends time at this address (“frequently” means that a resident of the household provides care for at least several days per week for a

few hours per day over three or more months per year)

3) A pregnant woman lives at the address.

4) A person receiving WIC benefits or Medicaid insurance lives at this address

5) A person can’t afford a filter and replacement cartridges (filters cost about $35 and replacement filters cost about $15)

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy or EGLAE (formerly the MDEQ) is the state department that evaluates compliance with the Action Level of all lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling. More information on their program can be accessed at www.michigan.gov/MILeadSafe.