Plans in the Works to Test Water for Lead in Oakland County Schools

dickeys top SUPERHEROPlans in the Works to Test UrbaneAd_04Water for Lead in Oakland County Schools

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 25, 2016)

Pontiac, MI – As dozens of teenagers from high schools throughout Oakland County sat eager to learn about the safety of their community’s drinking water, officials revealed that plans are in the works for testing of the water supply to schools.

Students were at the County Commission auditorium Monday for the Annual Youth in Government Day.  The event gives kids a first-hand look at county governance, including experiencing a committee meeting, talking with a judge, having lunch with their commissioners and hearing department heads talk about their jobs.  They also got a more in depth lesson in how the Water Commission and the Health Division work to keep Oakland County water safe.

SaharaNEW02In the General Governance Committee, Commissioners voted on a resolution to support lead testing by the State of schools.  The resolution got bipartisan support on the committee.

Commissioner Marcia Gershenson called the measure “a feel good resolution,” but told the students and the public that there would likely be a resolution brought forward to use some of the County’s surplus to help with the funding for tests.

“We have a surplus.  We will be bringing forward a budget to help schools,” she said.

Oakland County Health Division Director George Miller responded, stating “We have been working with Oakland Schools.  There is not money for testing and that is called an unfunded mandate.  But this is important.”  He said that testing is not easy, that they’d have to go in, flush all the lines, then let the water sit for 8 hours before the sample could be taken.  “This will be a very huge project.”DDAnew01

Oakland Schools put out an RFP with a submission deadline of April 15.  The RFP was for the cost to test at Oakland Schools and to provide pricing that could be offered to other districts through Michigan.  “Oakland Schools is taking a comprehensive approach for the collection and testing of water samples to detect Copper and Lead. We are requiring that vendor follow the guidelines that are currently set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) dated February 11, 2016. We are seeking pricing on Type 1 Community Water and Type II Public Water Supply Wells. We are asking that each vendor provide pricing for conducting an inventory on the district’s current fixtures and report the inventory and findings back to the district. Oakland Schools is seeking pricing which can be extended to school districts in the the State of Michigan. This includes all private, public, and Intermediate Schools Districts. Contract is to start June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017. This IFB has an option to renew for three (3) additional year in one (1) year increments,” the RFP said.

Fear of lead contamination was on the minds of the students, and the discussions about Red Door Realty Ad _own_your_dreamtesting ranged from the schools to the homes.

Commissioner Dave Woodward spoke in support of the resolution to the state, saying “I am not sure why this is the case, but schools are not required to test drinking water.”

Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash  spoke about the regulations for testing communities that get well water.  He said currently the county tests every three years in communities with well water, but that individual homeowners with wells should have their well inspected annually.

Nash assured the youth that “all our results have been very good,” and that builders in the area “quit using lead after the late 40’s.”  He also explained how the crisis in Flint came about from the community switching the water supply and not using a corrosion-inhibitor.

He talked about the need for funding infrastructure improvements.  “You see the roads GT ad 04crumbling, but with water you don’t see all the infrastructure,” Nash said.  “A lot of people don’t even know where their water comes from, if it comes from Detroit or from a well.’

He also called for collaborations and leadership from the state.  “This is a statewide issue and should be addressed at a statewide level,” he said “We don’t all need to reinvent the wheel. We can work together, learn from each other’s mistakes and not just fix things piecemeal.”

The Water Resource Department oversees the drinking water systems in nine communities, including Pontiac.  “In Pontiac we have lines and fire hydrants that are from 1908, 1912,” he said.  “We have some of the most pure water here in this area, but the infrastructure needs work.”

Bob Daddow, Deputy Water Executive representing Oakland County on the Great Lakes Water Authority also explained his organizations role in protecting the water supply.  The garden16_persistenceGLWA is only 115 days old, but it is tasked with making improvements in the water system with oversight both by Detroit and by the suburbs who also rely on the water.

He said that water coming from the Detroit River is tested for 83 different types of metals and chemicals multiple times per day.

The issue of testing in schools will continue to be on the minds of officials as the results come in for the RFP and communities figure out funding.

“I think it is essential that all schools be tested before the start of the new year,” Woodward said.

17 year old Makayla Marshall of Oxford Schools said she was most surprised by “The legislation for water we drink.  How is it not required in schools?  It should be.”


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