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Is Grand Rapids water safe to drink?

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As the Flint water crisis continues to unfold daily, local residents are questioning if their water is safe to drink. In the most recent lead report done by the city of Grand Rapids, the 90th percentile recorded 2.2 parts per billion. No samples taken exceeded the action level for harmful exposure which is 15 ppb.

The city of Grand Rapids conducts a number of tests, some even hourly for safe water quality. Other tests are done on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Residents receive an annual water quality report in an effort to sustain consumer confidence.

Healthy Homes Coalition is a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization incorporated with the State of Michigan in August of 2006. Their mission is to improve children’s health and wellbeing by eliminating harmful housing conditions.

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Haan Courtesy Photo

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Flint,”  Paul Haan, Executive Director of Healthy Homes, said.“No one should be subjected to toxic lead through their water supply.”

The MDEQ offers lead testing kits for $18 to individuals concerned about in home water quality. Test kits are free to Flint residents. Consumers draw samples then send into the state for testing.

Home testing kits are available at most local hardware stores but generally are not as sensitive, giving the amount of lead in parts per million as opposed to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality kit which gives results in parts per billion.

Another option identifying lead pipes into your home is to examine the pipes as they enter the crawl space or basement. A lead pipe will typically be silver in color and soft enough to scratch. In lieu of these measures, a professional plumber can advise what, or if any action is needed in your home.

Susana Fok, 18, a GRCC international student here from Hong Kong has experienced water problems in her home country.  

“If it happened in Flint, I believe it can happen here (Grand Rapids)” Fok said.

Approximately 17,000 lead service lines remain in the Grand Rapids system with approximately 80,000 service lines total for the entire service area of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Ada, Walker, Cascade, Kentwood, Talmadge and Grand Rapids townships.

For nearly 20 years, the Grand Rapids Water System has been treating the water and pipes with an anti-corrosive agent that reduces corrosive levels in water and provides a protective layer inside the pipes. Allegedly this step was not taken in Flint when they switched to the Flint River as its source for water.  

GRCC student Raul Gonzalez, 22, said he wasn’t concerned about the water quality in Grand Rapids.  

“You can probably access the schematics of your pipes to see how old they are and what they are made of,” Gonzalez said.

Locally, consumers can consult the Kent County Health Department, Healthy Homes Coalition or Grand Rapids Customer Service at 311 (616-456-3000) for advice on how-to test or to find out if there are lead service lines leading to your home.