By Anna Shafffer
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
After lead-tainted drinking water coming from old pipes in Flint exploded into a public health emergency last year, people across the nation grew concerned about the quality of the water coming from their own homes.
This epidemic, which was the topic of most news stories for the past few months, shed light on a problem that is taking place all over the nation. However, the Lansing Board of Water and Light has had a program in place for over a decade to make sure its customers in Holt and its surrounding areas never experience something like this.
“Our process began in 2004 and we’ve taken out over 13,500 pipes so far,” said Amy Adamy, communications coordinator for the BWL.
The BWL serves over 55,000 customers in the mid-Michigan area, and has implemented a two-part strategy to protect its 55,000 residential and commercial customers from exposure to lead leaching into drinking water, according to information from their water resource center webpage.
The first part of the strategy is removing all lead service lines in the area. The BWL owns the connection from the water main to the meter, and is in the process of replacing all of those lines, according to Adamy.
This portion of the project is slated to finish on June 30, 2017, however Adamy suspects they will be done before that.
All pipes that are inside of individual properties, such as homes and businesses, are the property owner’s responsibility, according to Adamy.
The second part of the strategy is to use a corrosion control additive to create a protective coating in the water mains, service lines and indoor plumbing. Adamy says the BWL conducts testing frequently to ensure the additive is doing its job and controlling corrosion of the pipes.
According to the BWL website, all drinking water provided to its customers comes from the Saginaw Aquifer, which is located hundreds of feet below ground. “The Saginaw Aquifer is a safe and reliable source of drinking water that meets all drinking water standards,” said the website.
While the BWL had a program in control that left residents with little need to worry, the crisis in Flint still drew attention to a problem a lot of people didn’t know was there.
“People became curious about what we were doing after what happened in Flint,” said Adamy. “We stepped up our messaging to inform people about the measures we had already been taking for years now.”
Locals weren’t the only ones who grew concerned after this news erupted, either. Dr. Richard Rediske, a professor of water resources at Grand Valley State University, said one of the outcomes of this crisis, although unfortunate, was that awareness was raised to this issue.
“People are starting to ask questions,” said Rediske. Questions that lead to discoveries that may have long-term, life altering results for many families across the country.
“I never really thought about it before,” said Santi Bareis, a resident of Holt. “My house isn’t very old. But once I saw it on the news more and more I started to wonder what it would be like if something like that happened to me.”
Lead poisoning can be very dangerous to the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even small amounts of lead accumulation in the body can cause irreversible brain damage, slowed growth and, in rare cases, death. Children are at the highest risk, and the CDC says there is no safe blood lead level in children.
Rediske says that if you suspect you have lead in the water in your home, it’s not something you should take lightly.
“I think individual property owners need to know what their water quality is,” said Rediske. “Especially if you have young children I would get the water tested for lead. Like I said it costs about $10-$20, it’s less than going out dinner.”
Adamy recommends that any one who has a concern about piping in, or outside of, their home should call the BWL.
“We have a water-specific line. Any time they have a concern about their water we suggest they call them. They are super helpful and ready to answer questions,” said Adamy.