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Traverse City residents receive letters warning against possible lead poisoning in water

Samples of various drinking water pipes.
Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio

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. 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 commissioners 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 about the sections of soft lead pipe, called gooseneck, that connects a property's service line to the city's water distribution line that are present in the city's water lines. 

Traverse City has used the East Bay as a water source since at least 1965. The city takes about 2 billion gallons of water a year from the bay. 

McGillivary, of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, also spoke 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."

A copy of the letter to the affected residents of Traverse City can be found in the notes of the city's Monday Commission Study Session. 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's Monday Commission Study Session also included a map that specifies lead gooseneck locations. 

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 the lead gooseneck connections.