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Lead in Ferndale water exceeds state standards

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Recent water samples from the city of Ferndale’s municipal water system have detected lead levels exceeding state standards, county and city officials announced Wednesday.

The Oakland County Health Division said it was notified by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy of the concern, discovered during routine compliance testing sampling by the state agency under Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act.

City manager Joseph Gacioch stressed Ferndale's water is safe to drink but also directed residents to an advisory on the city's website,, and added the lead levels were a result of more intensive testing.

"First and foremost, Ferndale’s water source and quality have not changed," said Gacioch. "This is about a property's infrastructure, not the water itself.  

"We have launched a web page to answer questions and people can also call our water department at 248-546-2519," he said.

The city also recommended residents with known lead lines follow county health department suggestions, including using water filters. The county announced it will distribute free water filter kits to Ferndale residents who qualify from 3-6 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Gary Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois St. in Ferndale.

“The quality of our drinking water is vital to the health of residents,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said. “Oakland County stands ready to support our local communities by helping them comply with lead rules, distributing NSF-certified water filters to qualified households, and educating the public.”

Preventive actions being taken are:

  • Ferndale and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services are conducting water sampling and investigations.
  • The Health Division is providing public education and coordinating distribution of free water filter kits to qualifying households. To qualify for a filter, the household must receive water from an affected area and have a pregnant woman or at least one child under 18 living or spending several hours in the home weekly. To qualify, persons need to receive WIC benefits, Medicaid health insurance, or have difficulty affording a $35 filter or $15 replacement cartridges.

Ferndale has 10,031 service line connections and about 30% are constructed with lead or contain lead materials.

Questions can be addressed at Oakland County Health Division’s nurse on call at 1-800-848-5533, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday or at

The county health department has a lab certified to test water for lead and copper, and bottles can be purchased at Health Division Offices for $24 per testing bottle.

Officials said lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome plated brass faucets and fittings, and in some cases, pipes made of lead.

To reduce the risk of lead in drinking water, residents should have water tested; replace faucets with those made in 2014 or later or marked “NSF 61/9”; flush cold-water pipes by running water for about five minutes; use cold, filtered water or bottled water for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula.

Hot water is likely to contain a higher level of lead. Boiling will not remove lead and aerators in the tops of faucets should be removed and sanitized monthly.

Residents may choose to install a water filter that is certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also recommends the filter be certified for NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for particulate reduction (Class 1). If a water filter is installed, replace cartridges at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer.

Visit and follow the Health Division on Facebook and Twitter @publichealthOC.