Douglas Officials Reviewing New State Lead & Copper Rules
The new lead and copper rule issued by the State of Michigan on June 14—a more stringent version of the federal rule meant to lower the action level for lead in drinking water and reduce corrosion—is related in some ways but different from the controversial water main special assessment districts being proposed in the City of Douglas, Freemont-Ellis, Whittier-First, and McVea.
Douglas city officials, affected residents, and City Engineer Brian Vilmont of Prein & Newhof discussed the issues at a special workshop of the city council on Monday night.
Prompted by the Flint water crisis, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is requiring the removal of all lead service lines—a service line is the line that connects individual homes to the public system’s water main line—over the next 20 years.
“Everybody (all local municipalities in the state of Michigan) is just starting to grapple with this,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
The neighboring municipalities will also have to address the new state regulation shortly, he said.
The main line pipe is not the problem as its material is hard and galvanized; the source stems from service lines composed of lead. Or even if they are galvanized service lines, they have connections made up of lead or may have had lead connections at some point, according to Vilmont.
At this point, Douglas city officials say they are not sure how many homes are affected by this new regulation as an assessment still needs to occur. And Kalamazoo Lake Sewer and Water Authority have not reported any issues with lead concentrations, at least not ones related to the DEQ’s new rules.
The DEQ’s threshold for taking action against lead concentrations is once the 90th percentile of water samples exceed 12 parts per billion; the federal rule establishes the actionable level at 15 parts per billion.
The city-proposed special assessment districts merely brought the lead and copper rule early to the forefront.
“The only difference (between the new DEQ regulation and the special assessment projects) is that before the new DEQ rule, we would have absolutely stopped our improvement work at the private property line.
“Now, we go all the way to the house,” said Vilmont.
The news could strike some folks within one of the proposed districts as good news: “Part of what was a private expense (service line) is now a public expense (divvied up among all water users),” said LeFevere.
In an attempt to bring the water service system up to acceptable standards, city officials, as part of the special assessment district proposal, want to install water main lines where there are none.
They also want to get rid of “spaghetti lines,” multiple homes connected to one service line or a service line that branches out into several service lines.
Some affected residents from the districts question the need for the improvements, citing their water service works well. The also have raised concerns about costs.
White the three special assessment districts consist of a project initiated by city officials, there are two property owners, at Felker’s Lake Shore Subdivision, outside those districts that by their own initiation have asked the city for improvements, water main and service lines.