Westland water lead lower than action levels, but still reason for concern

A Westland whistleblower came forward a month ago believing that lead was getting in the water supply -- and he wasn’t wrong.

While the water in the vast majority of the homes that was tested was found to be safe, that may not be the case for a few others.

“The water comes out pretty clear. The kitchen water doesn’t taste bad,” said Westland resident Clara Bentley of the water in her home.

Of the nearly 400 homes that provided water samples for testing, Bentley was the only one tagged 13 parts per billion.

“I’m hesitant, at times, drinking the water. Every time I drink it, I think about Flint,” Bentley said.

The lead levels at another home in Westland came in at 10 parts per billion. Several others were found between 5.1 and 9.9 -- that’s well below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion but far from safe, according to experts.

“It’s a standard for a type of treatment. It doesn’t mean that the lead levels below that point are essentially safe. They’re actually not. There’s really no safe level of water exposure,” said environmental expert Nick Shiroeck.

About 90 percent of the homes that returned water samples measured at less than one part per billion -- a welcomed relief after water department employee and whistleblower Frank Graymore accused city officials for not removing potentially dangerous pipes.

The majority of homes are in the clear, and a handful may not be.

“We’re certainly going to take a look at this and obviously this is a learning process not only for the City of Westland but for every community out there,” said Westland Mayor Bill Wild. “We’re learning more about this every single day. At this point, I think we feel pretty good that all the homes that were tested were below that action level.”

“It’s still up there. The pipes are old,” said Bentley.

And right now Bentley does not know if there are lead service lines running from the water main to her house. Something that city will likely be looking for in the next couple of days.

About 650 homes had the opportunity to submit water samples for testing, but only 380 did so. It’s unclear if the rest were tested sometime before this latest round of testing took place a few weeks ago, or if they did not turn them in all together.