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Detroit Water & Sewerage Dept. offering free lead, copper testing for homes


The Flint water crisis opened up a lot of eyes to potential dangers. Detroit has a proactive plan to keep such problems from showing up here.

A Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) program that began June 1 and runs through September 30 will check homes for a risk of potential lead in drinking water.

The testing is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

While the last test was done in 2014, and all homes tested were found safe, the city wants to make sure that is still the case two years later. This is a full year earlier than required by the act to make sure all drinking water meets regulatory standards.

The reason is to assure the residents their water is safe and to catch any problems before they become catastrophic.

Water that leaves the city’s treatment plant does not have lead in it. There is no reported risk there. The most likely cause of any lead in the water comes from pipe corrosion from lead plumbing, either in the service lines or the home.

Screenshot 2016-07-22 08.35.40

There is corrosion control in the water to limit potential problems. Corrosion control is orthophosphate, provided by the Great lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which reacts with metal and forms a protective barrier around the metal to inhibit corrosion.

It is a natural nutrient in many foods. More specific details can be found at

The specific zip codes that are targeted in the test this year are 48204, 48209, 48210, 48212, 48213, 48221, 48227, 48235, and 48238. More zip codes can be added. If you are not in the target area or meet the criteria you can still have your home tested for a fee.  More information can be found by calling 1-313-964-9300.

The process involves a DWSD employee coming to your home to visually inspect the pipe to see if it is at risk. The criteria to be tested are homes with:

  • Lead plumbing
  • Lead service lines
  • Copper piping with lead solder installed between 1983-86

zip codesA service line is a line that goes from the water main to a house. The houses most at risk there are the ones built before 1948, after the State of Michigan Building Code of 1947 took effect.

While many of those homes have lead components in their lines, not all of them do. However, those homes cannot be identified through a visual inspection.

Service lines can be made of many different materials including plastic, copper, lead, or galvanized steel.

To test to see if you fall under the criteria first shut off the service line to your home. Then try and stick a magnet to the pipe.  If it sticks, it is galvanized steel.

If you scratch the pipe with a coin and see something that looks silver, but no magnets stick, it is lead. Copper can be identified by its color. If the pipe is white or grey with a clamp, screw, or glue joining it, it is plastic.

Those in a listed area, or who have had their water tested in the past, can call 313-964-9300. There you can make an appointment with a professional to come between 8:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m. to find out if your home meets the criteria.

If you do, you will receive a sample kit from the GLWA. Once you’ve completed the test, in it is imperative you call the number on the instructions as soon as possible. The sample is only valid for 10 days after its collection.

Once it is analyzed by the GLWA, the results will be mailed to you.

As long as the criteria are met, there is no charge for the test.

Please click here for frequently asked questions about water testing.

Please click here to see how to create a lead free home and take a short quiz to see if your child has been exposed to lead.

We’ve seen the danger of lead in the water in Flint. While the threat in Detroit is low, if you have concerns testing should be taken seriously.

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