Photo: Stephanie Davis / WWJ

High Lead Levels Found In Highland Park Homes, City Passing Out Water Filters

“We will not sit by and become a Flint," the mayor said.

July 17, 2019 - 6:36 pm

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WWJ) -- The City of Highland Park is urging residents to take precautionary steps after authorities found high levels of lead during a routine water testing in the city earlier this summer. 

City officials say nine homes out of 36 tested showed lead levels above the action level. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly known as the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), evaluates compliance with the Action Level based on the 90th percentile of all lead and copper results collected in each round of sampling. The lead 90th percentile for Highland Park's water supply is 57 parts per billion (ppb), which exceeds the Action Level of 15 ppb, according to a press release from the city.

The city says residents can request to have their home tested for lead at no cost, though mayor Hubert Yopp says he'd like to see every home tested.

"That’s my opinion. Test the entire city," he said. "Let’s be on the safe side. Let’s test them all. This is only 2.9 square miles."

As the city is making water filters available for residents and offering steps to reduce the risk of lead exposure, Yopp says the city "will not sit by and become a Flint," referencing the Flint Water Crisis that led to a dozen deaths from the city's contaminated water supply.

"My first impression was to have the entire city tested. And where do we get the money from? I think the state should step up. I look at the Flint situation and we’re not going to repeat that," Yopp said.

In a press release, the city says the most important thing residents can do is let the water run to flush out lead from the pipes.

"Lead can enter drinking water when in contact with pipes, solder, home/building interior plumbing, fittings and fixtures that contain lead," according to the release. "Homes with lead service lines have an increased risk of having high lead levels in drinking water. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Therefore, if your water has not been used for several hours, run the water before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes. Additional flushing may be required for homes that have been vacant or have a longer service line."

The city says residents should:

  • Run your water to flush out the lead-containing water.
    • If you do not have a lead service line, run the water for thirty (30) seconds to two minutes, or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature.
    • If you do have a lead service line, run the water for at least five minutes to flush water from your home of building’s plumbing and the lead service line.
  • Use cold water for drinking, cooking, or preparing baby formula.
  • Public health recommends that any household with a child or pregnant woman use a certified lead filter to remove lead from their drinking water. Look for filters that are tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction. If you are not able to afford the cost of a lead filter, please contact the Wayne County Health Department at (734) 727-7100.
  • Do not boil your water as boiling will not reduce the amount of lead in water.
  • Check whether your home has a lead service line.

Water filters are available through the city's fire department. Highland Park residents who would like their water service lines inspected, or would like to have their drinking water tested for lead, should contact the Water Department at (313) 865-1876.

Damon Garrett, head of Highland Park's Water Department, says residents should not be alarmed by the discovery.

"We still want to be calm about this and let everybody know that we have a plan, that there’s information out there and that everybody is not contaminated," Garrett said.