Lead & Copper Program

Our community's Public Water Supply System is the largest groundwater-based drinking water system in Michigan. Our system does not have lead in its water mains or wells. However, lead can enter drinking water when it is in contact with pipes, solder, interior plumbing, fittings and fixtures that contain lead. The City of Kalamazoo is committed to providing safe and reliable drinking water to Kalamazoo and its surrounding communities and remains in compliance with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s (EGLE) strict 2018 Lead and Copper Rule revisions.

Safe and Effective Treatment

Kalamazoo has utilized a corrosion control program since 1956 that works to reduce water corrosiveness to pipes, fittings and fixtures containing lead and copper. To test the effectiveness of our program, our team performs routine monitoring within the water distribution system and testing for lead and copper in customers’ homes. The Public Services Department periodically evaluates the most effective corrosion control methods available and additional ways to further enhance this program. Kalamazoo is now working with Michigan’s Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to optimize corrosion control treatment.

Monitoring

Lead and copper monitoring programs are required to target homes that are likely to have the highest concentrations of lead in their drinking water. This includes those with known lead service lines and homes with copper plumbing built before lead solder was outlawed in the late 1980's. EGLE added more rigorous monitoring and testing methods in 2018 to the revised Lead and Copper Rule.

Even with these changes, the City of Kalamazoo has not exceeded the state and federal action levels for lead and copper since monitoring began in 1972.

The most recent Kalamazoo Lead and Copper Monitoring Results continue to be below Federal and State Action Levels. The following table summarizes the lead and copper data collected during the most recent monitoring period between July and December 2021:

Action Level 90th Percentile Value
Lead - 15 parts per billion 13 pbb
Copper - 1.3 parts per million 0.7 ppm

 

The action level is a measure of corrosion control effectiveness and is not a health-based standard. To meet the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule, 90 percent of the samples collected must be below the action level.  The City of Kalamazoo currently meets these requirements, and the vast majority of customers tested were at or below the lowest level of detection for lead. 

If you would like more information, contact the City of Kalamazoo at (269) 337-8000 or 311.  Information on lead in drinking water can be found at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

Lead Service Line Replacement

A proactive annual capital improvement program has been in place for over twenty years to replace lead service lines. Since 2018, the City of Kalamazoo has replaced more than 500 non-copper water services every year. More than 900 were replaced in 2021. Lead service replacements are funded by utility rate payers, the State of Michigan's Drinking Water Revolving Fund, and the Foundation for Excellence.  

View Lead Service Line Replacements since 2015

There are currently more than 7,000 non-copper services which require replacement as of 2022. The City of Kalamazoo is conducting a thorough inventory and any updates to these numbers will be published in future Water Quality Reports. Customers whose service lines are undefined or contain lead have been notified. New customers are notified if a lead or undefined service line serves their home at the time of connection. If you are not sure what your water service is made of, please call 311 or (269) 337-8000 for help. You can use this online tool to identify lead service lines: https://apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro.

Free Testing for Lead and Copper

Kalamazoo has provided free lead and copper testing to customers for more than 25 years. NSF Certified point of use filters are also provided at no charge to homes within our water supply system. Please call 311 or (269) 337-8000 if you have any questions about these services, or to arrange for free lead sampling. Prioritized lead service line replacement is provided for any home testing above the action level.

Health Effects from Lead and Copper

Lead

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Infants and children who drink water containing lead could experience delays in their physical or mental development.  Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. 

Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The City of Kalamazoo is responsible for providing high quality drinking water but cannot control the variety of materials used in household plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Please contact the City of Kalamazoo at 311 or (269) 337-8000 for free testing. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or www.epa.gov/safewater/lead

Copper

Copper is an essential nutrient, but some people who drink water containing copper in excess of the action level over a relatively short amount of time could experience gastrointestinal distress.  Some people who drink water containing copper in excess of the action level over many years could suffer liver or kidney damage. People with Wilson’s Disease should consult their personal doctor.

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

To reduce exposure to lead and copper in drinking water:

  • Run your water before drinking. The more time water has been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain. Therefore, if your water has not been used for several hours, run the water before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes. Additional flushing may be required for homes that have been vacant or have a longer service line.
    • If you do not have a lead service line, run the water for 30 seconds to two minutes until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature.
    • If you do have a lead service line, run the water for at least five minutes to flush water from both the interior building plumbing and lead service line.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap, lead dissolves more easily in hot water.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead levels.
  • Consider using a filter to reduce lead in drinking water. Read the package to be sure the filter is NSF 53 certified to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010, or www.nsf.org for more information.
  • Consider purchasing bottled water. The bottled water standard for lead is 5 ppb
  • Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. New faucets, fittings, and valves may contain up to 8 percent lead including those advertised or labeled as “lead-free” and may contribute lead to drinking water. Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions.
  • Clean your aerator. As part of routine maintenance, the aerator should be removed at least every six months to rinse out any debris that may include particulate lead.
  • Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure

Although the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead- contaminated dust, and lead-contaminated soil, the U.S. EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home and the health effects of lead, visit the U.S. EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/lead, call the National Lead Information Center at 800‑424‑LEAD, or contact your health care provider.

For more information on copper, visit the United States Center for Disease Control website at www.atsdr.cdc.gov/index.html, or contact your health provider.