Virtual town hall explains state water testing, higher lead levels

LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, put on a virtual town hall for residents of the Upper Peninsula on Thursday.

The town hall was one of three put on this week for residents of Michigan. The goal was to explain how water testing for lead and copper will be conducted.

It also addresses the fact that lead levels in these tests is expected to be inflated.

In the past, tests have been conducted on the first liter of water out of the faucet. But under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act of 2018, things have changed.

Now, tests will be conducted on the first and the fifth liters of water. The state says this will help them see further up into the pipes and better assess the infrastructure, as water that's been sitting deeper in the pipes will be a better indicator of any corrosion.

In turn, the levels of lead in each water test is expected to be higher.

The threshold for safe lead in water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). Anything higher than that reaches an 'action level,' which requires further testing and education to residents in the impacted area.

"Some public water supply results will exceed the lead action level of 15 parts per billion. In some cases, EGLE will have the public water supply do some extra testing, to discover why lead is exceeding the action level," says Kory Goertsch, of the Department of Health and Human services.

The Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act also says that the action level will be dropped down to 12 ppb, beginning in 2025.

Water tests will be performed in neighborhoods with previously high risk, or known issues. Homeowners in these areas will be issued kits to conduct the tests themselves.

"It has to be a six hour stagnation time. And that usually means when they first get up in the morning, before they flush the toilet, before they take a shower, before they run any water we want them to go to that kitchen sink or a bathroom sink and use that kit to take your water samples," says Goertsch. "Seal them up, call your water supply they'll go out and pick up the kit."

Homeowners who exceed the acceptable levels will be notified within 30 days of testing.

For those in homes over the threshold with pregnant women and children, it is recommended to get a lead filter for your water.

If you can't afford a filter, EGLE and MDHHS recommend going to your public water supply to ask if they'll provide one free of charge.