By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service
LANSING — While Flint struggles with lead in its water, other aging Michigan communities also have water lines made of the health-threatening metal.
The National Drinking Water Advisory Council said in 2014 that there is no safe level of lead. It’s a costly problem to address.
An American Water Works Association report, “Buried No Longer,” said the nation needs to replace aging pipelines that may contain lead or may leak. Over a 25-year span, “Buried No Longer” estimates that the country’s new drinking infrastructure will cost $1 trillion.
According to the report, the total replacement cost of water pipes in the Midwest would be about $486 billion.
Public Sector Consultants is analyzing Michigan’s infrastructure to find costs and needs related to fixing or replacing wastewater and drinking water systems. The Lansing-based research and program management firm specializes in governance and regulation, health care, education, energy and environmental policy.
“Although the report is still being drafted and we can’t release the results, part of our analysis is looking at the flaws in the EPA survey about drinking water,” said Jon Beard, a consultant at Public Sector Consultants.
Beard says that there have been far too many underreported cases of decrepit pipelines that lead to underestimating the problem. The assessment of need in the EPA survey is for 20 years from the time of the survey, which also causes discrepancies.
Homes with plumbing systems built before 1978 have copper and cast iron pipe connections. The American Water Works Association report says that these pipes can contain lead.
“If there is lead within one source in the home, there is probably lead in other sources,” said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Department of Community Health and Human Services. “Lead poisoning has been a problem and will always be a problem until we get all lead risks out of homes.”
Minicuci recommends that people who live in homes built before 1978 get tested for lead poisoning because of lead in pipelines and in paint.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe blood level of lead and that even low levels have been shown to have an effect, especially among children.
Lead poisoning can affect mental and physical development and at very high levels can be fatal.