‘What is in our water?’

Public officials talk water quality, system updates in Manistee

Manistee’s water supply is abundant and sourced from the groundwater of two natural aquifers. (News Advocate File Photo)

MANISTEE — The splendor that is the Great Lakes makes up one-fifth of all of the fresh water in the entire world, and Michiganders certainly reap many benefits from their natural resources.

Without fresh water life simply would not be possible.

In Michigan, rivers, lakes, springs and many other sources of water are salt-free and plentiful, but public officials and residents must work together to protect these resources, especially drinking water.

Around 34 billion gallons of water is produced daily by public water systems in the United States.

On Tuesday afternoon, local experts gathered at the Manistee Intermediate School District offices to talk about water quality, risks of contamination and more.

The event “What is in our water” was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Manistee County, and was well attended by many people throughout the Manistee area.

Speakers included Brian Thurston, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ); Tom Reichard, of the District Health Department No. 10 (DHD); Jeff Mikula, Manistee Department of Public Works director; and Bruce Banks, Manistee’s Water Department lead operator.

Manistee’s water quality

According to Mikula, a 2017 water quality report that was released last year found nothing out of the ordinary in Manistee’s water.

The water system in Manistee must be tested every three years for certain substances that can compromise a water system or pose certain health effects. In 2017, officials were required to collect 20 tap water samples to test for lead.

“In 2018, we pumped 296 million gallons of water. We are getting close to a million gallons a day of pumping,” Mikula said. “The action level is 15 parts per billion (ppb), and the city’s water system was at zero. We are pretty happy with that.”

The city also checked for traces of copper; the state’s current action level for copper is 1.3 ppm.

“At the copper side, again we did 20 samples,” he said. “The highest result we had was (around) .50 ppm.”

Mikula said the city does a variety of tests to ensure its drinking water is safe.

“We do a lot for water quality assurance, we do testing six days a week no matter what,” he said. “There are varying tests we have to do on a weekly basis, every two weeks, monthly, annually, semiannually…”

Reichard said the DHD No. 10 also works throughout Manistee County to check residential complaints, monitor local bodies of water including Lake Michigan, Bear Lake and Manistee Lake, as well as other measures.

“The dirty secret is that once ground water gets contaminated we really do not have technology yet to really clean that up,” Reichard said. “Really the emphasis should be to stop ground water from getting contaminated in the first place.”

Reichard said residents often look to the DHD No. 10 to provide unbiased opinions. The DHD No. 10 currently serves a 10-county area that includes Mason, Wexford and Manistee counties.

“We get tons and tons of complaints from residents regarding water quality,” he said. “They call us up because we are an impartial third party.”

Pilot program

During the forum, Thurston shared details on the state’s pilot drinking water infrastructure grant program.

Last year, the MDEQ and Municipal Assistance Division awarded $9.5 million around the state to help communities update their water supply.

Michigan’s new lead drinking water rules adopted in 2018 will lower the lead action level to 12 ppb starting in 2025, and require all public water systems to replace lead service lines, over a period of 20 years.

The state’s current action level is the same as the federal level of 15 ppb.

The $331,000 grant awarded to Manistee will be used to inventory water service lines, update the water asset management program and replace existing galvanized service lines. Thurston said this is a “monumental” task.

“We have to go through an active plan of reduction,” said Thurston. “We are not going to be able to eliminate all of the lead from the water completely tomorrow… as we update it, we will get rid of this lead.

“That is the purpose of the new Lead and Copper Rule, as we replace the assets of those water mains we also address the service line issues of that time.”

However, Mikula said Manistee does not need to replace all of its service lines.

“For 25 years, the city has been replacing all of the service lines whenever we do an underground construction project,” Mikula said. “We have been replacing service lines from the main to the curb stop, which is basically within the right of way.

“With the new rules the state passed last year, we are going to be required to replace service lines all of the way into the house.”

Mikula said they are currently unaware of any lead service lines within the system.

“We know that we have some old cast iron pipes that are lead jointed,” said Mikula. “We also know that there are some valves.”

The process, he said, has been fairly successful.

“We have been actually digging up some of those pipes, and looking at some of those places where there might actually be lead,” Mikula said. “So far, we found one in the process. But for the most-part the system is lead free.”

The drinking water infrastructure grant was awarded to 18 communities across the state.

The Manistee Water Department shared the following water safety tips: 

• Store water in a glass or BPA-free plastic container such as polyethylene. Do not use containers marked with the recycling symbol “7 PC”;

• In case of an emergency, store one gallon of water per person a day; and

• If a container has bacteria before filled with tap water, the bacteria will only continue to grow. Water can be stored in a closed container for up to six weeks; refrigeration will slow bacterial growth.

Contact Ashlyn Korienek at (231) 398-3109 or email akorienek@pioneergroup.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MNA_Ashlyn

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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