GR water lead levels at all time low; lead pipe concerns still surface

Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 04, 2016

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Lead levels in drinking water are at an all time low, according to city officials, but that hasn't calmed those who remain concerned about the issue.

Following the Flint water crisis, cities across Michigan have a new vigilance to ensure the safety of their drinking water. Water Systems Manager, Joellen Thompson,  said the city's drinking water has consistently improved over the past 20 years.

"Our testing levels have shown that our lead in drinking water is at an all time low," said Thompson.

Grand Rapids has an action line at 15 parts per billion, if drinking water exceeds that line, the city will take drastic measures to reduce those levels.

Grand Rapids shows a steady decline since 1997, now sitting at 2.2 parts per billion. Hardly anything in comparison to Flint's 27 parts per billion. Their highest reading was 158 parts per billion, found by Virginia Tech.


Grand Rapids Communication Director, Steve Guitar, understands the city's current lead levels are among the lowest in the state.

"When we’re talking about lead, the phosphates we add to the water coat everything from the plant all the way to your drinking fountain," said Guitar.

However, lead service lines are something to keep in mind.

Thompson said roughly 17,000 homes in Grand Rapids get water via lead pipes.

"Older homes would may have lead service lines, the lead service lines generally were placed before about 1930," said Thompson.

Saying it's more of a maintenance issue than a health concern.

"You really shouldn’t be concerned with the lead pipes in your house because we add the phosphate to the water and it treats the water," said Thompson. "It basically provides a protective coating along everything that the contacts the water."

Paul Haan of the Executive Director of the Healthy Homes coalitions of West Michigan joined the conversation today, saying those who can afford to replace those pipes should do it sooner than later.

"If you’ve got a lead service line underneath your front lawn, that thing is probably 100 years old and it’s going to go at some time," said Haan. "It’s better that it goes when you can afford to replace it and do it proactively than waiting for it to bust on some winter day."

None the less, there is a Lead Service Line Abatement program for concerned residents. The city will help any lead water service lines with copper. 400 homes were replaced in 2015.

"It's approximately $1,000 to $3,000 for the homeowner's cost," said Thompson. "It varies depending on the size of the yard and the length of the pipe. "It’s important to remember that we are not required to replace the lead service lines because our treatment is in full compliance with the regulations. However, we initiate this program to help homeowners replace them if they are still concerned."

If you still want your water tested, you can call the Kent County Health Department, Environmental Health Services at (616) 632-6900.

The city also recommends the Drinking Water Analysis Laboratory, MDEQ, to conduct water testings for any specific parameters, (517)-335-8184.

The Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan focuses primarily on environmental lead based paints and soils, (616)241-3300.