MDEQ proposal calls for lead pipes to be removed in 20 years — except in Detroit


Photo of Flint drinking water pipes showing different kinds of iron corrosion and rust. - PHOTO COURTESY MIN TANG AND KELSEY PIEPER/VIRGINIA TECH
  • Photo courtesy Min Tang and Kelsey Pieper/Virginia Tech
  • Photo of Flint drinking water pipes showing different kinds of iron corrosion and rust.
In the aftermath of the Flint water crisis, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to state rules that would replace all lead pipes within 20 years.

Everywhere in Michigan, that is, but Detroit.

Eric Oswald, director of the DEQ's Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, tells MLive that an exception would likely be made in Detroit, where it would not be economically feasible to complete within that time. The department, he said, would have to negotiate a different plan with the city.

According to a March Detroit News report, Detroit has between 125,000 and 150,000 lead service lines, and replacing them could cost up to $500 million — and take decades to accomplish.

"We're not Chicago or New York with multi-unit dwellings," Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown said in March. "We're single-family homes, and just about all of that housing was built before 1950, so just about all of our houses have (lead service lines)."

In Detroit, lead levels have risen in children in the last year, but it is believed that the exposure comes from lead paint in older homes — and an increased interest in testing following the Flint crisis, according to a Free Press report.

The proposed changes to the state's Lead and Copper rule would also lower the statewide action level threshold for lead detection from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. Previously, Snyder called the rule "dumb and dangerous."

DEQ is holding a public information session to discuss the proposed changes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the Lansing Center (333 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing).

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