Grand Rapids crews work to replace private lead pipes

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has begun the work of replacing lead pipes using a United States Environmental Protection Agency grant.

The $5.1 million grant will be used to help replace around 1,600 private lead service lines, Grand Rapids said in a Thursday release. The project will take about four years to complete in what the city calls “Neighborhoods of Focus,” some of the oldest developed areas in the region.

Crews have already started replacing lead pipes in neighborhoods bounded by Franklin Street, Eastern Avenue, Hall Street and Jefferson Avenue. It will take six months to replace around 230 private lead service lines in those neighborhoods, the city said.

Replacing private lead service lines used to be the responsibility of the homeowner, but starting in 2017 Grand Rapids started replacing lines for eligible homeowners.

About 30% of all service lines in Grand Rapids are lead and about 54% of those are in neighborhoods of focus.

In 2014, the 49507 zip code ranked second in the state for the number of children age five or younger that had elevated blood lead levels in tests, the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan found — though the main source of lead poisoning in Grand Rapids is lead-based paint in older homes.

“You always want to have the safest option especially when you’re drinking water from the tap or anything like that,” said Grand Rapids resident Kourtney Hodges, who recently had her service line replaced.

Crews are working to replace private lead service lines in Grand Rapids. (courtesy Grand Rapids)

Hodges said the process was quick. The water in her home was only shut off for about an hour. Her next-door neighbor’s was off for approximately eight hours. Hodges said her only complaint was the noise, but she appreciates the work that the city is doing.

“I have small kids, I have a house full of small kids, so the fact that they care about you know the type of water that we’re drinking, the quality of water that we’re drinking is important because we drink a lot of water we make a lot of bottles,” Hodges said.

The Grand Rapids water system has met the lead and copper requirements every year since testing started, the city said, but the pipes still need to be replaced.

“Our water is amazing. It’s excellent,” said the city’s deputy manager Eric DeLong. “We meet all the and exceed all the water quality requirements so it’s more kind of like a belt-and-suspenders kind of approach where we’re just making darn sure that everything is A-OK.”

“Collaborating with the city of Grand Rapids and investing in lead service line replacements will improve public health, create jobs and support economic growth,” Cheryl Newton, the acting U.S. EPA region 5 administrator said in the release. “EPA is excited to see this important work continue and is committed to working with the city to ensure that residents have safe water to drink.”

The city said tenants and property owners will receive a letter, door hanger, or call letting them know about upcoming replacements and steps on how to begin the process.

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