THREE RIVERS, Mich. (WOOD) — The local health department is advising people in Three Rivers not to drink the water from their taps without a filter after tests by the city returned lead results above the state “action level.”
The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency said it will start distributing filters on Tuesday. In the meantime, people should find another source for their water.
“At this point, we’re advising anyone that has municipal water in Three Rivers to use a different source for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, anything where it’s ingested,” Health Officer Rebecca Burns said Thursday. “Use a different source until you’re able to get a filter on your water supply to make sure that the water you use then for ingestion is safe.”
The city also recommended using a filter “as a precaution,” City Manager Joseph Bippus told News 8 in an email Thursday. He said no state of emergency was warranted.
“(W)e are just following the (state’s) guidelines and recommending filters,” he wrote.
In a Thursday release, Three Rivers said a new water testing method under 2018 updates to Michigan Lead and Copper Rule “was expected to result in higher lead levels, not because the water source or quality for residents has changed but because the act has more stringent sampling procedures.”
The city said it recently found more lead service lines. When it tested the water for 47 homes, six of those homes were found to have lead levels above 15 parts per billion. That pushed the city past the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s “action level.”
Using the new sampling procedures, an EGLE spokesman said the 90th percentile of tested homes came to 19 parts per billion. Under the old way, that figure would have been 12 ppb, below the action level.
Exceeding the action level means the city will roll out more educational outreach, continue sampling every six months, assess how corrosive the water is and replace lead service lines.
Three Rivers said it will distribute a “comprehensive public education document about lead” soon. It will collect at least 40 water samples every six months and review results to decide what action, if any, needs to be taken.
“Our lead copper testing will continue over the next year to determine if our 90th percentile testing results will be reduced to a number below the action level. If they are lowered below the action level, then the filter recommendation will be removed,” Bippus told News 8. “The long-term plans include additional service line material verification and construction projects to replace lead service lines. The City has applied for additional funding to assist with the construction projects and are awaiting final scoring results.”
EGLE said Three Rivers has applied for $2.7 million in state funding for lead service line replacement. The city will find out whether the money was granted when EGLE publishes its list of project priorities in September.
The city stressed that action level is meant to measure the effectiveness of corrosion control and that it’s not a health standard.
“The goal for lead in drinking water is 0 ppb,” it wrote, “there is no safe level of lead in the blood.”
If you live in Three Rivers, the health department said, you should install a certified lead filter.
If a child under 18 or pregnant person lives in the home, if a child frequently visits or if a household member is enrolled in Medicaid or the WIC program, you can get a free one.
Filter distribution will begin Tuesday. You can pick one up at the Three Rivers Department of Public Services between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. or the health department between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. You will have to bring ID or a copy of your water bill to prove you live in the city. You’ll get either a PUR filter that attaches to your kitchen faucet or a BRITA pitcher.
Unlike a bacterial problem, boiling your water will have no effect on the amount of lead in the water.
The city explained that water may pick up lead from lead pipes, solder, plumbing and fittings. That means that the more time water sits in the pipes, the more lead it may leach. It said that if the water has been sitting for a few hours, you can help to flush the lead by running the water before using it. People whose homes have lead service lines should run the water for at least five minutes. People without lead service lines need only run the water for between 30 seconds and two minutes, or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature.
If you don’t know whether your home has a lead service line, check to find out. You can reach out to the Department of Public Services at 269.273.1845 for a service line inspection or to learn about getting your water tested.
The state has information online about how businesses can mitigate lead.