Birmingham to host forum on new water standards

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 12, 2019

BIRMINGHAM — Just a few weeks after the state of Michigan said that Birmingham had high lead levels in water at certain homes, like several other municipalities sampled under new testing standards, the city has invited residents to a community water forum to discuss the issue.

Beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, Seaholm High School will host the forum with representatives from the city, along with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Great Lakes Water Authority, the South Oakland County Water Authority and the Oakland County Health Division.

The evening, according to a press release from the city, will include presentations from experts who can provide insight on the changes in water testing procedures, which have prompted the “actionable” lead levels in water in homes that have older service lines.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone with questions about their water to learn from experts across the state and region. We are fortunate to have such a knowledgeable panel to share information and answer questions,” said Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine in the release. “We want everyone to be informed appropriately and not concerned unnecessarily.”

Readings have never exceeded state-standard levels since Birmingham began testing for lead and copper in the water in 1992. The culprit this time around for tests tripping the action level threshold, Valentine explained last month, is a stricter method for obtaining samples, like testing water from different parts of service lines and testing water that’s been sitting stagnant in pipes.

Lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is most dangerous to growing children and pregnant women. Lead poisoning can be linked to an array of negative effects ranging from gastrointestinal complications to more serious symptoms, like developmental delays, learning difficulties, chronic irritability, hearing loss, seizures and more.

Those unable to come to the meeting can still find information in the public notice mailed to all Birmingham water customers last week and on the city website, which has a dedicated page for water safety at bhamgov.org/lead testing.

Officials from the Oakland County Health Division said they’re also working to spread awareness on water safety and acceptable lead levels. According to Oakland County Executive David Coulter, they’re also distributing NSF-certified water filters to qualified households.

“The quality of our drinking water is paramount, and we stand ready to support our local communities with these and future test results,” Coulter said in a prepared statement.

There is no cost to attend the forum, which is expected to last about three hours. Seaholm High School is located at 2436 W. Lincoln St. in Birmingham.