Could neighboring communities be affected by water crisis? - WNEM TV 5


Could neighboring communities be affected by water crisis?

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Michigan residents who live outside of Flint are concerned their water may be laced with lead.

“I was concerned because of what’s happening in the neighboring city,” said Neil Haney, 32, of Carrollton Township.

The TV5 I-Team took samples of water throughout Mid-Michigan to see if lead could be detected. They paid the Department of Environmental Quality $18 per sample to test for lead.

There was no detectable level of lead at Haney’s house.

Jim Koski, former Saginaw County Public Works commissioner, is an expert on water safety. He has been selected to participate in the task force probing what happened in Flint. He said testing is done routinely at the water plant itself.

However, if you sense a problem at home Koski said it’s best to leave it to the professionals to come in and handle it. Oftentimes a homeowner may get a false positive when trying to test the water themselves, Koski said.

“You have to contact your municipality because … you can contaminate a test if you didn’t do it right,” Koski said.

Meanwhile, Haney said he’s glad he doesn’t have the same issue as Flint.

“They got a lot of work to do,” Haney said.

In Essexville, Daniel Pardo said his water is just fine.

The longtime Bay County resident said it tastes good and looks clean.

That puts a smile on the face of the man in charge of making that happen.

"That's our goal, it's our responsibility to do that," said Tom Paige, director of Bay County Water & Sewer.

Paige said it's his mission to provide safe and clean water to the cities and townships throughout the county.

The state of the art plant in Bangor Township went online last summer. In doing so, they switched from using the inner Saginaw Bay as the source to a cleaner and purer part of Lake Huron.

"With that quality raw water supply, we're able to put it through this state of the art micro filtration plant and put out an awesome water product to the customers of Bay County," Paige said.

As the I-Team discovered, that micro filtration system means Bay County doesn't need to add many chemicals to the water, just a very slight amount of chlorine and fluoride.

In comparison to Flint, it also means the county doesn't suffer from one issue that had overwhelmed Flint - the amount of total trihalomethanes (TTHM) in water. In Flint, the TTHMs increased to unhealthy levels when they were added to the water from the more corrosive Flint River.

Bay County also appears to have no issue with lead.

Paige credits that to the water source, as well as corrosion control methods they have kept in place after switching from the Saginaw Bay.

"We maintain that. Even with our better water supply coming into the plant. So we would absolutely expect the results like what you found," Paige said.

Pardo said he's happy he doesn't have the lead problem they do in Flint. He gives his water five stars.

"Thumbs up for Bay County," Pardo said.

In Saginaw County, the thumbs up continue. 

Koski said by the time Saginaw Township, Tittabawasee and Thomas Township were taken off wells and put onto the City of Saginaw's water system, lead service lines had been phased out.

In Saginaw County, our results showed no levels detected.

But what about residents within the city limits of Saginaw? Good news for them too.

The city gets its water from deep in Lake Huron, a clean and sustainable water source.

Koski said the city treatment plant has had the proper corrosion control method in place for decades.

During the 1960s the city replaced most service lines made with lead, something Flint never did.

The price tag for this system?  According to Koski, for labor and parts, the lines for each house can be replaced at just $1500 a pop.

"They can dig them up without even digging them,” Koski said. “They take a sewer vac and they go right over the stop box and they can suck all the dirt right up without even digging it up. Takes about 20 minutes."

Koski said he's enjoyed hearing from the pundits and others about how to fix the crisis.

"It's fun listening to other people who are, let’s just say well-educated in their own fields, but I'm not so sure they know a hell of a lot about putting in water connections," Koski said.

He's hoping to bring his experience to the people of Flint, so they get the relief they so desperately crave.

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