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Grand Rapids water deemed safe; experts say further infrastructure investment needed

BY Sunday, November 06, 2016 04:02pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Residents of Michigan’s second largest city needn’t fear their drinking water. 

That’s according to the results of a study released Friday by the city of Grand Rapids, finding lead levels at 4 parts per billion, a quantity far below the 15 parts per billion that qualifies a water system for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Action Level. 

The certified lead levels found in Grand Rapids’ drinking water are consistent with seven past studies going back to the year 2000. 

“This long-term consistency is a tribute to the source quality of our water from Lake Michigan and our team of water treatment professionals who have added phosphates to our water since 1994 to reduce corrosion and coat any remaining lead pipes,” Joellen Thompson, water system manager for the Grand Rapids Water System, said in a statement. 

That’s certainly welcome news for anyone who’s followed the ongoing water crisis in Flint, but it also means that cities like Grand Rapids shouldn’t rest on their laurels, according to Keith Creagh, the current head of the Department of Natural Resources. 

Creagh previously led the DEQ following the resignation of former director Dan Wyant at the end of 2015. 

“I think that the lessons in Flint are applicable across the state and I think it’s applicable across the country,” Creagh said Friday morning during a panel on infrastructure held at Grand Valley State University’s downtown Grand Rapids campus. 

He said municipal leaders need to maintain open lines of communication with a variety of stakeholders. 

“My lesson in all of this is don’t be tone deaf because sometimes there’s something else you need to be paying attention to,” Creagh said. 

Indeed, other municipal government leaders speaking at Friday morning’s panel discussion were quick to point out that Michigan as a whole got a “D” grade on its infrastructure report card, according to a 2013 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers that graded states based on their infrastructure. 

“Michigan would be on academic probation,” said Eric DeLong, deputy city manager for the city of Grand Rapids, who was appointed in March by Gov. Rick Snyder to sit on the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission.

However, the country as a whole got a D+ on the same 2013 study, a slight increase from the previous study. At time of the survey’s release, ASCE projected that the United States needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020. 

Infrastructure investment remains one of the few agreements between major party candidates in a bitterly fought U.S. presidential election season, as both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both called for significant increases in federal spending on infrastructure. 

However, any increased funding would require an act of Congress, which Creagh thinks could happen. 

“So both candidates are talking about the need to invest in infrastructure,” Creagh told MiBiz. “People in the this state on both sides of the aisle are talking the need to invest in infrastructure. I think it will become a bipartisan issue to deliver safe drinking water, to make sure we can fish and swim in our lakes and streams.”

Read 3414 times Last modified on Friday, 04 November 2016 16:16