Tests show 8 St. Clair Shores sites have elevated lead levels, city says

The Detroit News

St. Clair Shores officials released an advisory Wednesday after water testing found elevated lead levels at eight locations with lead service lines in the city.

Results from eight of the 62 targeted sites tested exceeded the 15 parts per billion action level.

The city has also been working to replace 720 lead service lines.

Based on how the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy evaluates compliance with the action level based on the 90th percentile of all lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling, the 90th percentile for lead in the water supply is ­­18 parts per billion, according to the release.

About 2.7% of the city's 26,369 water customers, around 270, have lead service lines, the city said. The city contacted the homeowners with elevated lead levels about the sampling results and offers free faucet filters or pitcher filters to any water customer with lead service lines.

“Although less than 3 percent of our water customers are affected, we want to be proactive and alert all of our water customers — whether their house has lead service lines or not — to be vigilant and take steps to reduce the risk of any lead exposure,” Mayor Kip Walby said in a statement. “We will continue testing and provide our citizens with information and public education about lead in drinking water and what we as water consumers can do to minimize the risk in our own homes.”

The city has been testing tap water in homes with lead service lines since 1992 and is working to replace the 720 lead service lines. St. Clair Shores has so far replaced about 100 lead service lines at a cost of $400,000 and is seeking grants and loans from the state to help fund and speed up the work, officials said Wednesday.

Bryan Babcock, director of public works and water for St. Clair Shores, said the city is replacing the service lines in compliance with state instructions to communities across Michigan following the discovery of high levels of lead in Flint's water supply after the city switched sources in 2014.

“We did a check of permits on homes and found less than 3% had lead service lines,” Babcock said. “We have sampled six homes and found eight exceeded lead amounts. There is no acceptable lead amount in water, so those lines must be replaced. We will replace lines as levels of lead are determined in the water.”

Babcock said the cost of replacing all of the city's service lines is estimated at $3 million and will be paid by the city, not the specific homeowners. Replacement of a home service line takes about half a day. He explained that the probability is high that lead service lines were installed in any home built before 1950.

“But that doesn’t mean they have a lead problem now but the service lines will need to be replaced,” he said.

In its release, the city cautioned that the water results "do not mean that every customer has elevated lead levels. The 'Action Level' is not a health-based standard, but it is a level that triggers additional actions including, but not limited to, increased investigative sampling of water quality and educational outreach to customers. The health-based standard for lead is 0 ppb; there is no safe level of lead in drinking water."

In late 2019, testing found four homes with elevated lead levels.

For information, residents can go to https://www.scsmi.net/892/SCS-Lead-Safe

Residents also can receive a complimentary water filter by calling the DPW Department  at (586) 447-3305 between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Complimentary faucet filters or pitcher filters and replacement cartridges are available to citizens who meet state qualifications:

  • They have a child under 18 living at home
  • A person is a caregiver or a child under 18 frequently spends time at their address
  • A pregnant woman lives there
  • A person receiving WIC benefits or Medicaid insurance lives at this address
  • A person can’t afford a filter and replacement cartridges