Water from some Ferndale homes found with lead levels exceeding state standards

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 26, 2020

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FERNDALE — An advisory published by the city of Ferndale states that samples from recently tested homes with lead service lines came back with levels that were higher than the state of Michigan’s standards.

The advisory, released Oct. 19, said that Ferndale’s Department of Public Works had taken samples from 31 properties in the city with lead service lines. Of those 31 samples, five came back with lead concentration levels above the lead action level of 15 parts per billion established by the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. The city stated its 90th percentile value was 30 ppb.

Ferndale typically conducts an annual water sampling process, said City Manager Joe Gacioch, and with this recent testing, the city will start to create awareness in the community about lead issues, specifically regarding properties with private lead service lines. This includes sending a physical notice to every utility account making people aware of this health notice and assembling an educational event, which the city scheduled to do at the City Council’s Oct. 26 meeting, after press time.

Gacioch declared the water quality in Ferndale’s system is fine and that this test isn’t “an indictment of the water quality in Ferndale’s water system.”

“It is a measure of the actual infrastructure, not necessarily the water quality,” he said. “That’s an important distinction to make. Secondly, we’re not concerned about the drinking water, but we certainly are always concerned … properties should be more aware that they have lead service lines, and if you do, there are filters available for you to help filter out that and address this situation until service lines are ultimately replaced through the state’s program.”

According to the city, it has 10,031 service line connections, with 30% of them estimated to have been constructed with lead or lead-containing materials. Ferndale moved earlier this year to begin the process of replacing its lead lines after the state adopted a strict Lead and Copper Rule in 2018.

The state has mandated that all communities replace private lead service lines over the next several years. Because of this recent test where homes in Ferndale exceeded lead concentration levels, Gacioch said, the city will be replacing more lines than it had planned for in the next several years.

“We were required to replace 5%, but now this would trigger us to up that requirement to 7%,” he said. “So we’re being a little bit more aggressive about the lead service lines that we will replace. In addition, we also will be more aggressive about increasing our number of properties sampled from 31 … up closer to 60, and the frequency of testing will also increase (from annually to quarterly).”

Oakland County also will be assisting Ferndale in its lead prevention efforts with its Health Division hosting an event to distribute free water filter kits to qualified Ferndale residents from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois St.

Qualifying households are ones that either receive water from an affected area, or have a pregnant woman or at least one child under age 18 living or spending several hours in the home weekly, and who receive Women, Infants and Children benefits; Medicaid health insurance; or have difficulty affording a $35 filter or $15 replacement cartridges.

Through the Health Division, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said, it’s the county’s responsibility to help local cities communicate these health implications to residents and provide equipment like filters to address concerns.

“Obviously, the larger solution is going to be replacing lead lines, but that’s a very long-term and expensive proposition,” he said. “In the meantime, as a county, we want to make sure ... if you suspect that you have lead service lines, you should — regardless of your income — you should go down to the local hardware store … and get water filters. It’s always an important thing to do, especially if you have children under 6 years of age in your household.”

Gacioch said the community center will hold drive-thru consultations, where residents who are concerned about the issue can speak with experts from the state, Oakland County Health Division and the city’s Water Department.

If residents are concerned about their drinking water, both the city and county recommend running the water before consuming, which can be 30 seconds for a home without a lead service line and five minutes for one that does have one; purchasing a filter that is certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction; and clearing your faucet aerator to remove trapped debris.

For more information and steps on how residents can take their own actions at home to reduce their exposure to lead, read the city’s full statement at www.ferndalemi.gov/news/public-advisory-for-ferndale-drinking-water-customers.