Lead in Michigan City Tap Water Declines After Rising for Three Years | Michigan
The amount of lead in drinking water in Benton Harbor, Mich. Has declined, new tests show, after three consecutive years of high results, residents have been forced to consume bottled water and prompted to replace the old pipes.
Lead levels in the majority of the Black City’s drinking water are now just within state-set standards which, if exceeded, require a utility to take corrective action and notify residents of the city. ‘a problem, according to state officials.
Residents are concerned about the health effects of their families, as lead can slow cognitive development and is particularly dangerous for children.
Michigan officials said the new results indicate that controlling corrosion to prevent pipes from leaching lead into drinking water is helping. But the nearly 10,000 residents of Benton Harbor are still expected to use bottled water for basic activities such as drinking and cooking, officials said.
âEverything will continue as before, it’s just that the data shows us that the corrosion control is working. We need to keep going, keep improving it and keep working on it, âsaid Eric Oswald, director of the division that oversees drinking water at the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
Some community activists have noted that the lead levels in the city’s water are now barely below federal limits, which many experts say need to be lowered. The Centers for Disease Control says no amount of lead is considered safe.
âNo one should be doing a victory lap,â said Reverend Edward Pinkney, chairman of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council. “Lead levels are still 15 parts per billion – and that is unacceptable.”
The state provides free bottled water to residents of Benton Harbor, but collecting it can be time consuming, and tasks like cooking can quickly use up personal supplies. Homebound residents can request deliveries.
Since the start of 2019, residents have been offered free at-home filters designed to remove lead from the tap. In October, the state said it was reviewing the effectiveness of these filters “out of caution” and issued instructions for residents to use bottled water extensively.
Oswald said preliminary results indicate the filters are working properly, but it won’t be until the first few months of next year for the Environmental Protection Agency to complete the study and confirm the results.
Once the study is completed, state officials will decide whether the filters are reliable enough or whether bottled water should continue to be widely used, Oswald said.
Recent tests of the Benton Harbor water system show 15 parts per billion lead; more and it would exceed Michigan standards. Tests carried out earlier in the year produced levels of 24 ppb.
The highest site sampled contained 48 ppb of lead. Tests carried out earlier in the year produced some results in the hundreds of parts per billion.
In the aftermath of the Flint water crisis, Michigan adopted the country’s most stringent requirements for reducing lead in drinking water, implementing new testing standards and timelines for the replacement of lead pipes. Despite the changes, advocacy groups told the EPA in September in a petition that city and state officials had not acted quickly enough to resolve the Benton Harbor issues.
In the United States, millions of lead service lines are underground. The recently passed infrastructure bill guaranteed $ 15 billion for the replacement of lead service lines and the reconciliation package pending in Congress includes billions more – money which advocates say is vital but will not be enough to remove all the lead pipes.
Pinkney noted that the town still had around 6,000 lead service lines connecting residents to its water supply system that needed to be replaced.
âLet’s work on removing all the lead pipes, before we do victory laps,â he said.