Detroit water: Sampling results are under lead and copper action level

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DETROIT – The city of Detroit’s results for the lead and copper rule compliance testing is 10 parts per billion (ppb), which is under the state action level for lead remediation.

That’s according to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), which released the results on Tuesday. All communities with lead service lines must sample tap water in homes with lead service lines as required by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

DWSD says they tested 55 homes with lead service lines this summer. The 90th percentile of samples was 10 ppb, which is under the action level of 15 ppb, according to DWSD.

From the DWSD:

  • 54 homes tested in Detroit had lead results below the action level of 15 ppb.
  • Only one home tested above the action level. The first liter sampled from the home exceeding the action level was at 114 ppb. The fifth liter sample at the same home was 6 ppb. The resident was notified, and provided flushing instructions, a pitcher filter with replacement cartridges, instruction on cleaning faucet aerators monthly, and a plumbing inspection by DWSD personnel to identify components that need to be replaced. DWSD said it will provide secondary testing to see if the results change after the recommended actions and will continue to work with this homeowner to help minimize lead in their drinking water.

”We want to assure Detroiters the water supplied by DWSD is safe for drinking,” said Gary Brown, DWSD director. “The water leaving Detroit’s water treatment plants, operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority, does not contain lead. The primary sources of lead in water are lead service lines, lead solder, and/or fixtures containing lead in the home. Even before the State of Michigan enacted the most stringent Lead and Copper Rule in the nation, DWSD began replacing lead service lines during water main replacement projects and providing pitcher filters to those residents and businesses as a precautionary measure. We have replaced more than 500 lead service lines over the past year. While the lead in drinking water test results are higher than in 2016, they are due to a change in state regulated testing methods.”

New Michigan Lead and Copper Rule testing method

The new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule – the most stringent in the nation (enacted in June 2018) – changed the way lead samples are collected at Detroit homes. In the past, DWSD collected only the first liter of water out of the tap. Under the new rule, both the first and fifth liter are collected. The first liter represents water from household plumbing and fixtures, and the fifth liter is more likely to represent water from the lead service line. The service line is the pipe which brings water from the water main in the street to inside the home or business. In Detroit, most service lines are either lead, copper or galvanized steel. Lead service lines are under two inches in diameter and are mostly at single family or duplex homes. The new sampling technique more accurately represents the range of lead in the drinking water in Detroit homes.

Lead in drinking water

The water leaving Detroit water treatment plants, operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), does not contain lead, but lead can be released into drinking water from lead service lines and home plumbing as the water moves from the water mains to your tap. Beginning in 1945, Detroit stopped allowing the installation of lead piping for water service lines. Homes before 1945 are most likely to have a lead pipe that connects the home to the water main, known as a lead service line. The lead in lead service lines, household plumbing and fixtures can dissolve or break off into water and end up in tap water. The water provided to DWSD customers contains a corrosion inhibitor to reduce leaching from lead service lines and other lead components, but lead can still be present in water at the tap.

Health effects of lead

Lead can cause serious health and development problems. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Older homes can have many sources of lead exposure including paint, dust and soil. If you have questions about other sources of lead exposure, please contact the Detroit Health Department at 313-876-0133.

Test your water for lead

To request for your water to be tested, please visit and search “lead and copper sample request form.” If you do not have Internet access, please call the Detroit Lead Safe Resource Line at 313-964-9300 for further assistance.

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