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Traverse City residents receive letters warning of possible lead contamination in water

Almost 130 property owners in Traverse City will receive letters warning them that their drinking water flows through a gooseneck, or a short section of lead pipe before it reaches their homes. These goosenecks connect a property's service line to the city's water distribution line.  

The letters from city officials were prompted by state and federal agencies that directed municipal water system officials to reach out and educate residents about lead and copper service lines. The city plans on testing the water in each property with a gooseneck. 

Brian McGillivary of the Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that city officials did not appear very worried during a presentation to the city commission on Monday: 

City officials downplayed any concerns about lead contamination in the water supply during a presentation to city commissioners on Monday. City Manager Marty Colburn said people are more likely to have lead contamination from lead solder used in copper pipes. Colburn also noted the city water is not corrosive like the water that released lead from old pipes when the City of Flint changed its water source to save money.

Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams spoke to Art Krueger, the superintendent of Traverse City's water treatment plant to discuss the accuracy of the city's water service line records and the city's ongoing efforts to replace the gooseneck connectors:

“We have been replacing a boatload of those every year, and based on our records we believe there are about 125 of them left. We have a four year plan that we have put into place and, starting with this year, we are trying to knock out about 30 or more a year," explained Krueger. "Based on all the new information coming out, from the DEQ and the EPA, we wanted to be proactive about this. Even though we’ve been working on them, all along, they came into a higher priority because of the situation in Flint.”

McGillivary also spoke to Krueger about the state of Traverse City's water:

"It's good water, very stable and noncorrosive," said Krueger. "We have a luxury of having that bay so close to us to utilize as our source of water."

Traverse City has used the East Grand Traverse Bay for its water source since 1965. 

The notes from Traverse City's City Commission Study Session include a copy of the letter to the affected residents. In the letter, Dave Green, the director of Public Services for the city, assured that the letters and tests are precautionary in nature. 

"Please be assured that this letter was not sent out to place worries or concerns on your mind as it relates to the question 'is our drinking water safe' so many people are asking," said Green in the letter to applicable Traverse City residents. "It is more of an information, proactive way to just make sure we do not have any issues we are not aware of." 

The notes from the City Commission Study Session also included a map indicating properties that have lead gooseneck connectors. 

Residents who are concerned about lead in their water are being encouraged to contact the city water department for information on testing. Water testing, however, will not be paid for if a home does not have a lead gooseneck connection.