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Manchester lead levels spark free testing, filter offers

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Washtenaw County health officials on Thursday announced lead testing is available after the village of Manchester's water supply exceeded action levels.

The action comes after at least two cities with high levels of lead in drinking water were distributing bottled water to residents.

Manchester had tested tap water in homes for lead and copper and collected samples from 19 sites, village officials said in a statement on its website.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy evaluates compliance with the action level based on the 90th percentile of lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling. The lead 90th percentile for the Manchester water supply is 31 parts per billion, which exceeds the action level of 15 ppb, the village said.

Seven sites were over the action level, according to the notice. 

As a result, the Washtenaw County Health Department is offering free lead testing to children ages 1-6 and pregnant women 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at Luther C. Klager Elementary, 405 Ann Arbor St.

Results are expected within a week and by phone, the department said in a statement.

"Typically, children under 6 and pregnant women are more vulnerable to lead poisoning," according to the release. "... If the results of Friday’s testing indicate elevated blood lead levels among local children or pregnant women, the Health Department will offer additional testing opportunities. Local pediatricians can also provide lead testing for children."

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also is providing free filters to village households served by municipal water and with children or pregnant women or cannot afford one.

The filters are available 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Village Hall, 912 City Road.

The village is advising residents using lead service lines to clean aerators and flush water from pipes for at least five minutes before use.

Those without a lead service line are asked to run their water between 30 seconds and two minutes or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature.

The testing comes as state officials address lead levels in Benton Harbor and Hamtramck.

Elevated lead levels were first detected in Benton Harbor in 2018 during routine testing. Much of the city's water distribution system is about 100 years old. State and city officials treated Benton Harbor's drinking water with a corrosion chemical blend that failed to control harmful levels of lead for more than two years and rejected federal requirements to fully study its effectiveness, The Detroit News reported last week.

Drinking water samples exceeded action levels for the sixth time in three years at the end of June. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns that filters distributed to homeowners might not be working.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration earlier this month asked residents to use bottled water and expedited replacement of lead service lines in the city.

More than 71,000 cases of free bottled water had been distributed to Benton Harbor residents between Sept. 30 and Wednesday, the state health department said. Residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

Hamtramck officials notified residents Wednesday that the city has exceeded state lead limits in its annual test of tap water, a long-standing concern.

In a letter to residents, city officials said that the city's water supply has tested at 17 parts per billion, which is slightly higher than the action level of 15 ppb as part of the state and federal lead and copper rules. At least 42 homes were sampled, they said.

In 2019, Hamtramck began a lead service line replacement program and expects to have over 300 lead service lines replaced by December.

There are around 5,900 lead lines in the city that have been in the ground for many decades, Hamtramck City Manager Kathleen Angerer said Wednesday.

Free bottled water has been offered, and hundreds of residents lined up Thursday to pick up free faucet filters and pitchers with filters.