City of Detroit ‘accelerating’ lead water pipe removal, replacements

80K to 100K homes have lead lines, officials say

DETROIT – The city of Detroit is revving up efforts to replace lead service lines.

The administration said it is staying ahead of a 20-year deadline to replace them. Detroit banned the installation of lead service lines in 1945, but officials estimate that anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 homes will need lead lines replaced.

They placed signage on part of Chopin Street in the Claytown neighborhood of southwest Detroit and hired Five Star Energy Services for a $25 million contract to do the work.

“We’ve seen too often in this country that after lead pipes have failed and we have children with elevated lead levels, the government scrambles to replace the pipes,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Water quality issues have plagued some Michigan communities, including Flint and Benton Harbor. Elevated levels of lead and copper were also discovered in dozens of Detroit schools in 2018.

Duggan reminded people that heavy metals in Detroit’s drinking water fall below federal and state action levels.

“As you know, Detroit pretty much has the safest drinking water in America,” Duggan said.

Mayor Mike Duggan (WDIV)

Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said the city has a goal of replacing 5,000 lead lines in the city this year and 10,000 lines next year and in years to come, until the project is complete. He said the administration is prioritizing areas with children, seniors, and lower income families.

“You may not see us in some neighborhoods in northwest Detroit for several years, because we’ve identified the neighborhoods with the most kids, the most lines, and the ones that are most at risk,” he said.

Brown said 3,000 service lines had already been replaced while installing new water mains.

Duggan said service lines to a person’s house are typically the responsibility of the property owner; but homeowners would have copper pipes installed, a one-year warranty, and a water filter at no cost.

Brown said $75 million was from ARPA funds and $5 million from the state. The project could cost $800 million to $1 billion, he added.

He said this kind of project had not been done in Detroit in more than half a century.

It is something that Emmanuel Juarez, of Detroit, wishes had been done sooner. “Honestly, I catch myself wishing this was done when I was younger, so that I could get to enjoy it; but I’m really happy that we’re where we’re at now,” Juarez said.

The mayor’s administration is asking for homeowners to be home for appointments in order to make the connection in the homes.

The city wants to tap into the economic opportunity of it by encouraging Detroit-based businesses to apply.

About the Author:

Ron is a Detroiter and MSU grad who has a tremendous passion for meteorology. He joined the 4Warn Weather Team in March 2023.