An Update About Ferndale's Water and Lead Service Line Testing

November 7, 2019

In recent weeks, several neighboring or nearby Metro Detroit cities have announced that water testing has revealed lead values that exceed the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)'s Action Level. This has led residents to inquire about the state of Ferndale's municipal water supply. The following information is meant to provide clarity surrounding the issue and answer several frequently asked questions.

In January of 2019, the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act announced new water sampling requirements to better detect possible lead in drinking water. These changes require all communities with lead service lines and older housing stock, including Ferndale, to do more sampling than we've done in the past. Prior to 2019, we were required to test water from five properties with lead service lines annually; we are now required to test 30. This new sampling method has resulted in higher lead results for some communities—not because the water source or quality has changed, but because of the stricter sampling procedures.

Ferndale's Department of Public Works (DPW) followed the same protocol as other local cities: we sampled 30 properties with lead service lines, had the samples professionally tested (by Paragon Laboratories of Livonia), and submitted the laboratory results to EGLE. The results (unconfirmed by EGLE at this time) show:

  • Three properties (out of 30) with lead levels elevated above EGLE's Action Level (the Action Level is not a health-based standard, but rather a level that triggers the need for additional actions, such as increased sampling)
  • 27 properties (out of 30) with safe levels
  • An average 90th percentile lead level—or an average of the three elevated levels—of 15.3 ppb/parts per billion

EGLE's Action Level is 15 ppb, which means that Ferndale's properties with elevated levels are either at or very minimally above the Action Level. As of Nov. 6, 2019, the City has not received an elevated-lead notice from EGLE. If that changes, we will update the community immediately.

Despite this, the City of Ferndale takes the issue of lead service lines seriously. In accordance with new state rules, we're working on a plan to identify and inventory service lines throughout the City, and by 2021 will begin replacing 5% of our lead lines per year. We’ll be communicating about this more thoroughly in the coming months and years with guidance from the State of Michigan and EGLE.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why are so many cities suddenly announcing elevated lead results?

The recent lead warnings are because of a significant increase in the required water sampling from properties with lead service lines. Prior to 2019, we were required to test water from five properties with lead service lines annually; we are now required to test 30. This new sampling method has resulted in higher lead results for some communities—not because the water source or quality has changed, but because of the more-stringent sampling procedures. Nothing has changed with the City’s water source or quality. If you don't have a lead service line, you're not affected.

How can I tell if I have a lead service line?

The best way to tell for sure is to have a plumber provide a quick inspection. If you want to look into it on your own, The Free Press offers a helpful do-it-yourself guide.

Can I have my water tested if I'm concerned?

Absolutely. The most effective way to test your water is by collecting a "first and fifth-liter" sample and submitting it to an approved lab.

What can I do to reduce my risk?

If your water test indicates your tap water has lead levels above EGLE's Action Level, there are several things you can consider to reduce the risk of lead exposure in your drinking water:

  • Flush your cold-water pipes by running the water for approximately five minutes. The longer the water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it may contain. You can fill containers for later use, after the flushing process.  
  • Do not boil water. Boiling will not remove the lead.  
  • Replace faucets. Older faucets, fittings, and valves sold before 2014 may contain up to eight percent (8%) lead, even if marked "lead-free." Replace faucets with those made in 2014 or later and are certified to contain 0.25% lead or less.
  • Choose to install a water filter that is certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53, and replace filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Clean aerators. Aerators are small attachments at the tops of faucets that regulate the flow of water. They can accumulate small particles of lead in their screens. Remove and sanitize monthly.
When will my lead service line be replaced?

The Department of Public Works has begun the process of identifying and inventorying the city's lead service lines with the plan to start replacing 5% of our city's lead lines annually by 2021. This can involve time-consuming research, the studying of decades-old paperwork and documents, and more. We're early enough in this process that we can't offer specific replacement timelines or details.

Do I qualify for a free water filter?

The Oakland County Health Division provides water filters to certain disadvantaged members of the public. To qualify, your household must have at least one of the following:

  • A child under age 18 living in the home
  • A child under age 18 spending several hours every week at least three months of the year in the home
  • A pregnant woman living there, AND someone receiving WIC benefits and/or Medicaid insurance
  • Difficulty affording a filter and replacement cartridges (as noted above, filters cost about $35 and replacement cartridges cost about $15)

For more information, visit Oakland County's Lead and Your Drinking Water page.

Who can I call if I have questions or concerns?

Contact the Department of Public Works Deputy Director, Dan Antosik, at 248-546-2519.

POST WRITTEN BY

Kara Sokol

Communications Director