City back in compliance for lead in drinking water

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city is getting ahead in its effort to control lead in the drinking water supply.

City Administrator/Utilities Manager Brian Yerges updated the City Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

His report came at the request of Alderman John Nelson in the wake of issues with severe lead contamination in the drinking water supply in Flint, Mich.

“Their situation is completely different from ours,” Yerges said of the Michigan city.

“In the past, when we did testing, we had some issues with lead,” Yerges did concede.

The city was within federal guidelines for lead content in the drinking water supply adopted in 1991 until 2011, when tests found the level slightly above the recommended maximum level.

That led to a consent order agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources in 2012 under which the city accelerated its program of replacing lead lined water service lines.

“Since 1995, the city of Plymouth has had an active lead line replacement program as part of water main projects,” Yerges explained. In all, the city has gone from 973 identified lead service lines in 1995 to 762 today.

More than 100 of those replaced lead lines have come in the last couple of years under the DNR consent order, Public Works Director Bill Immich pointed out.

Because of the high lead levels found in 2011, the city was required to conduct annual testing for lead in drinking water, as opposed to the three-year interval for communities in compliance.

“As of 2016 we’re back under three-year testing,” Yerges reported. “What that means is we’re back in compliance, the way we had been for years.”

Yerges did note that the city can only replace lead service lines to individual property lines and not private laterals to individual homes or buildings.

“We have no control over that,” Yerges said of privately-owned laterals. “We can’t control what people install in their houses, even though the city of Plymouth is responsible for what comes out of the tap” as far as lead levels in drinking water.

Yerges was referring to the fact that lead testing is done with water from taps in individual homes.

He predicted that the Flint situation is likely to lead to future changes in EPA lead and copper rules for drinking water.

“That will likely impact municipal water systems,” Yerges admitted.

“I have no reason to believe we’re going to have any long-term issues with our water service in Plymouth,” he was quick to add. “(Plymouth Utilities) has provided safe and secure electric and water for 115 years. I see no reason why that wouldn’t continue.”

During their regular meeting following the Committee of the Whole session, the council approved a $43,980 contract with Kip Gulseth Construction of Manitowoc to replace 484 feet of sanitary sewer line on Reed Street.

“We’ve had problems with this line,” Immich said in explaining the need for the project, which will run from Milwaukee Street east to just short of Appleton Street, about three-quarters of a block.

“After the sewer work is done, we’ll be paving Reed Street from Milwaukee Street to about Huson Court,” Immich added.

The council authorized a transfer of $100,000 from the tax incremental finance district 5 fund to the Local Government Investment Pool to help establish a revolving loan fund program account.

Yerges explained that the deposit was required as part of the city’s approval for a $300,000 USDA Rural Development grant. The money will be used initially to help in the rehabilitation of the 133 E. Mill St. building

As those funds are repaid, they will be available for the city to use as a revolving loan fund for economic development.

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