FLINT, MI — The city has failed to test enough valid water samples for lead and copper levels in the first half of this year, the third such violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2019.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy issued the violation notice, which must be reported to water customers, in a Sept. 17 letter and reported to the city that 90 percent of 49 valid sites that were tested were at or below 4 parts per billion of lead, well below the federal action threshold of 15 ppb.
Flint was required to collect 60 water samples from Tier 1 sites during the first six months of this year but failed to do so despite deadline extensions granted by the state.
The state has discussed allowing the city to replace some of those Tier 1 sites — homes with lead service lines — with Tier 2 sites — such as apartment buildings with lead solder plumbing, lead pipes or lead service lines — if officials cannot locate enough higher-risk homes to sample in the future, partly because the city is in the final phase of excavating and replacing all lead and galvanized steel service lines throughout the city.
“EGLE recognizes the city put forth a significant effort, despite the significant challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Eric J. Oswald, director of the department’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division, in the Sept. 17 letter to City Administrator Clyde Edwards. “This effort included utilizing firefighters to conduct community outreach in order to obtain additional samples as well as the establishment of a team of health navigators dedicated to providing additional outreach to residents.
“As you know, the city faces unique challenges with establishing and maintaining a pool of sampling sites due to the rapid pace of lead service line replacement. We also appreciate the city’s participation in weekly meetings with the state of Michigan and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to discuss and plan sampling efforts during the current monitoring period which began on July 1, 2020. The city’s water quality continues to meet all applicable standards.”
Oswald said the city will not be fined for its violation of the SDWA “due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic … however, failure to conduct monitoring, as required during the second six-month round of 2020, may result in a fine of $1,000 per day with a $10,000 maximum.”
In a news release Friday, Sept. 18, Mayor Sheldon Neeley said ongoing testing shows water quality inside the city remains stable and that work continues to drive lead-in-water levels even lower but did not specifically mention the SDWA violation.
A city news release said the difficulty in collecting valid water samples was related to the coronavirus pandemic, the high rate of replacing lead service lines “and because testing was so woefully behind when this administration came into office.”
The city’s statement says officials will work to identify 90…