Detroit now has $100M to replace lead service lines over next 3 years

More funding on the way

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig) (Seth Wenig, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – There is now $100 million in a fund that will help Detroit speed up the replacement of its estimated 80,000 lead service lines in the city.

The money comes from state and federal grants and the replacement will come at no additional cost to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department customers, according to DWSD Director Gary Brown.

Lead service lines are what carry treated water from the public water main to the house. The Michigan Lead & Copper Rule requires all lead service lines to be replaced over the next 20 years. Detroit houses built before 1945 likely have a lead service line unless the pipe was replaced recently.

“Annual testing shows the water leaving the treatment plants is well within state and federal safety guidelines,” Brown said. “While there is no evidence to suggest lead service lines are a contributor to elevated blood lead levels in Detroit, they do pose a risk. As part of DWSD’s commitment to safe drinking water, we will eventually replace all residential lead service lines in our city.”

Read: How many children in your community have elevated blood lead levels?

The influx of funding means DWSD will ramp up its current program from 700 replacements per year to at least 5,000. Currently, DWSD replaces lead service lines while on the same street replacing the water main. The additional funding will allow the utility to replace individual service lines outside of its capital improvement program.

The cost of residential lead service line replacement can be more than $10,000 per house due to inflation. The $100 million fund is expected to be able to replace service lines at a rate of about 5,000 per year over the next three years.

“With an existing and robust lead service line replacement program, we have the ability to dramatically accelerate our work based with this new funding,” said Gary Brown, DWSD director. “We thank our federal and state partners for providing the bulk of the funding. We’ve said for the past four years, we cannot put the cost on the backs of our ratepayers – outside funding is essential to replace the lines.”

The $100M for Detroit’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program is as follows:

  • $75M American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds through Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)
  • $10M Michigan Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF)
  • $5M Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WIIN grant
  • $10M DWSD Capital Improvement Program

Brown said that much more revenue will be needed to replace all the estimated 80,000 lead service lines in Detroit and his staff is currently pursuing additional funding sources.

How to reduce exposure to lead in your water

The DWSD has offered the following tips to reduce exposure to lead from your water:

  • Run your water to flush out lead. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Therefore, if your water has not been used for several hours, run the water before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes. 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 both the interior building plumbing and the lead service line.
  • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
  • Use only filtered water or bottled water for preparing baby formula.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead levels. In the event DWSD issues a boil water advisory due to low water pressure (such as caused by a large water main break), water users in the designated advisory area will be advised to boil water before using for cooking, drinking and brushing your teeth. Residents with lead service lines should only boil filtered water — not water directly from the tap.
  • Consider using a filter to reduce lead in drinking water. The Detroit Health Department recommends that any household with a child or pregnant woman use a certified lead filter to reduce lead from their drinking water. Look for filters that are tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction.Some filter options include a pour-through pitcher or faucet-mount systems. If the label does not specifically mention lead reduction, check the Performance Data Sheet included with the device. Be sure to maintain and replace the filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality.
  • Get your child tested. Contact the Detroit Health Department at 313-876-0133 or your healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
  • Identify older plumbing fixtures that likely contain lead. Older faucets, fittings, and valves sold before 2014 may contain higher levels of lead, even if marked “lead-free.” Faucets, fittings, and valves sold after January 2014 are required to meet a more restrictive “lead-free” definition but may still contain up to 0.25 percent lead. When purchasing new plumbing materials, it is important to look for materials that are certified to meet NSF standard 61.
  • Clean your aerator. The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that will catch debris. This debris could include particulate lead. The aerator should be removed monthly to rinse out any debris.
  • 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 313-267-8000 and press option 7 for further assistance.
  • Add your home to the DWSD Lead Service Line Replacement Program wait list once you visually verify you have a lead pipe coming into your home from the water main. Go to

What are the effects of childhood lead exposure?

Children who have been exposed to lead may experience a lower IQ, a decreased ability to pay attention and underperformance in school.

The CDC said that there is evidence that childhood exposure can cause long-term harm.

Exposure to lead can cause the following:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

The health effects of exposure are more harmful to children who are younger than six years old because they are still growing.

Read: Wayne County prosecutor considers next steps in Flint Water Crisis

Michigan offers services to help combat lead poisoning

If your child has an elevated blood lead level you can contact a state, local or national program to apply for lead services.

Through lead services, someone will help you find and fix lead hazards, identify lead in drinking water hazards and lower your child’s elevated blood lead level.

Services previously offered to children with blood lead levels greater than or equal to 4.5 µg/dL, including nursing case management, home environmental lead investigations and lead abatement, will be expanded to eligible families and households with children with confirmed blood lead levels greater than or equal to 3.5 µg/dL.

Click here to see if you qualify for any state or local services.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.