NEMWI Works with Detroit to Minimize Lead in Drinking Water

The Northeast-Midwest Institute has agreed to a contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to design a program to minimize lead in drinking water in Detroit, Michigan. In a city with more than 100,000 full or partial lead service lines, this project will assess the presence of lead in drinking water across the city, as well as develop short- and long-term strategies for minimizing exposure to lead through drinking water.

Senior Policy Analyst and environmental engineer Elin Betanzo will lead this work, having played a key role in bringing visibility to the Flint Water Crisis in fall of 2015. Her ongoing work regarding lead in drinking water, both nationally and in the state of Michigan, led to her current project with the city of Detroit.

“We are starting with a lead sampling program that targets neighborhoods with multiple risk factors for lead in drinking water,” said Betanzo, “and DWSD is verifying the presence of lead service lines before samples are taken.” Betanzo is designing and overseeing the Lead and Copper Rule compliance sampling program during summer of 2016, one year before required. The sampling will follow the latest recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Betanzo will continue to implement proactive strategies to minimize risk from lead in drinking water in the city of Detroit. These strategies include improving public notice and public education regarding lead in drinking water, updating and maintaining service line records, and designing a lead service line replacement program. The work in Detroit will set an example for proactively addressing lead in drinking water in large older cities.