Farmington Hills establishes Water System Advisory Council

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published October 23, 2019

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Oct. 14 to establish a local Water System Advisory Council.

The city is required to create such a council by recent statewide changes to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s lead and copper rules.

The rule changes, established in June 2018, indicate that local municipalities with water supply systems that serve populations of 50,000 people or greater needed to have such a council established by Dec. 11 of that year.

During that time frame, the Great Lakes Water Authority, which provides water for 83 communities in southeast Michigan, including Farmington Hills, put in a request asking the EGLE to allow the municipalities served by the GLWA to combine to create a regional council.

“We’re all getting our water from the same source. It made some sense, at least from our perspective, that instead of having 40 different water system advisory councils, maybe we could work collaboratively and share resources to comply with the rules,” said Karen Mondora, the city’s director of public services.

The city established a temporary water system council Dec. 10 for a period of one year while it awaited the EGLE’s response on the regional council, as well as the specific rules by which the council was to abide.

“Fast forward, now it’s October. We’ve got the clarification from the state that each community needs to have its own (council) if they’re big enough, which we are, so we’re just proceeding with making this advisory council official,” Mondora said.

Scott Dean, the strategic communications adviser for the EGLE, did not comment as to why the regional water system advisory council request was denied.

Under the new mandates, the Water System Advisory Council’s primary responsibilities are to provide more transparent communication, public awareness, education and action regarding the city’s water supply. Dean called these changes “the nation’s toughest lead rules for drinking water.”

“Michigan is committed to protecting the public from lead exposure by working collaboratively with local communities to reduce or eliminate all sources of lead in the home,” he said. “By creating the most stringent lead testing and removal rules in the country, Michigan is on track to steadily reduce and ultimately eliminate lead drinking water pipes over the next several years.”

The new lead action level of 12 parts per billion was decreased from the previous marker of 15 ppb, and that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2025. Water quality sampling will also now include testing for chloride and sulfates. The EGLE believes a majority of the state’s water systems can meet the new level by its effective date, according to state officials.

“Ultimately, our goal is zero (sources of lead),” Dean said. “Our requirement to have water suppliers replace lead service lines over the next 20 years is an important step in achieving that goal.”

Although the city’s water supply has never exceeded the action level, and there are no known lead service lines, according to Mondora, “Providing educational efforts and raising awareness is always helpful.”

The Farmington Hills Water System Advisory Council consists of five members, appointed by the mayor:

• Tammy Gushard, the senior engineer for the city of Farmington Hills.

• Connie Sims, an environmental planner and licensed water systems operator for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office.

• Anthony Drautz, an administrator with the Oakland County Health Department.

• Mike Pucher, a contract compliance officer with the Oakland County Community and Home Improvement Division.

• Erinn Quetell, a Farmington Hills resident and environmental planner.

Appointed individuals must have a “demonstrated interest in or knowledge about lead in drinking water and its effects,” states the ordinance language. Although five is the minimum number of members, Mondora said the council is not looking for new members at this time.

The council will meet once yearly — the minimum requirement — and expects to schedule its next meeting before April 2020. All meetings are open to the public.

For more information on the state’s lead and copper rule changes, visit michigan.gov/mileadsafe.

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