High lead levels found in multiple Highland Park homes, urged to flush lines and get water tested

The City of Highland Park says nine homes were found to have high levels of lead in its water after routine testing, and is now urging all homeowners to flush their lines and get their water tested. 

This summer, the city collected samples from 36 homes and says nine came back with results that were above the "action level" for lead. The prefered "action level" is 15 parts per billion - and the average in these homes was 57 ppb. 

If you are a Highland Park Water Department customer and would like your water service line inspected or would like to have your drinking water tested for lead, contact the Water Department at (313) 865-1876. 

In the meantime, the City is urging everyone to let the water run to flush out lead. They say they'll also send out information and notices over the next coming weeks. 

Over the coming weeks, The City of Highland Park Water Department will send a comprehensive public education document about lead in drinking water. They will also be collecting 60 samples every six months and reviewing the results to determine if corrective actions are necessary to reduce corrosion in household plumbing. 

Lead can enter drinking water when in contact with pipes, solder, home/building interior plumbing, fittings and fixtures that contain lead. 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. Run your water to flush out the lead-containing water. 

If you do not have a lead service line, run the water for 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. 

"We will not sit by and become a Flint," said Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp. "This is a  super priority - we want to get this dealt with."

Yopp vowed Wednesday  to aggressively handle high lead levels found in the water.

Water testing done by the city in May revealed nine out of 36 homes had high lead levels - measuring on average more than *3 times* what is considered safe by state and federal guidelines.

"This is the first time that we have had elevated tests so we are not ringing the alarm that the water is unsafe," said Darren Garrett, water department director. "We have no reason to believe we are in a state of an emergency but we do know we are ultra sensitive to this issues."

The city is offering and encouraging free water testing and free water filters for residents.

Their advice to families - flush your water for 5 minutes before using it. 

"I have a family of five and two pets we all drink the water we use the water to cook we bathe in it I mean we brush our teeth,  I mean who doesn't," said Anegla Lugo Thomas.

Parents are worried about lead exposure in their kids - the most vulnerable are children under 6, pregnant women and the elderly.

"For it to be nine houses, it's alarming but it's probably more than that," said Sydney Spight.

Spight has not had his water tested - but chances are he has a lead service line, which can cause lead exposure. 

The city wants to replace all the lead service lines for almost every home, but it will need $22 million  to do it - money they don't have.

"Flint opened the doors and opened everyone's eyes to what's going on in this water," Spight said. "And it makes you wonder is the water that you're dinking anywhere safe."

The city is urging people to get their water tested - and starting tomorrow they will have those water filters for free at the city's fire department.