Breitung protests new state rules for lead in water pipes

QUINNESEC — The Breitung Township Board on Monday came out against new rules on lead and copper water pipes that officials said could cost the municipality hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to come into compliance.

Finalized June 2018 in response to the Flint water crisis, when unsafe levels of lead were found to have leached from pipes into city drinking water, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality rules aim to reduce heavy metals in water by mandating lead service lines be replaced by 2040, among other things.

While Breitung Township does not have lead service lines, Superintendent John Gaudette said specific service lines do have lead gooseneck pipes — a short, flexible pipe that connects service lines to water mains.

Gooseneck pipes in the past often were made of lead because it was a malleable metal that can withstand excessive freezing and thawing, Gaudette explained.

Replacing the all the gooseneck pipes in the township would cost an estimated $3 million over 20 years, or about $150,000 annually, Gaudette said.

Board Trustee David Soderbloom said lead levels in township water are far below the minimum standards and the cost of complying with MDEQ rules would be borne by rate payers.

Soderbloom cited as an example Escanaba, which starting July 1 will increase water rates by 45 percent to offset the cost of compliance — and that, he added, might not be enough.

Gaudette said he would like to see areas that test below the minimum standards for lead contamination be exempt from the mandate.

In other business, the board:

— Sold a 1999 Ford Ranger pickup truck to Richard Wreath of Norway for a bid of $1,510.51.

— Authorized Department of Public Works Superintendent Guy Forstrom to decide whether to sell a 1979 GMC Tanker to Kevin Romitti of Iron Mountain for $750 or salvage any usable parts and sell the scrap.

— Approved a change order request for the 2019 Quinnesec Road Project. Forest View Drive will be crushed, shaped and paved rather than receive an asphalt overlay. Wabash Street will receive an asphalt overlay rather than be crushed, shaped and paved.

— Approved paying mileage and registration fees for elected officials of the township to attend the Michigan Township Association’s training workshop on assessing functions.

— Gave $1,500 to the Lake Antoine Association for the treatment of Eurasian watermilfoil, an aquatic vegetation considered to be a highly invasive species.

— Declined an offer from County Treasurer Lorna Carey to purchase two foreclosed parcels of land. The location of both parcels is not ideal for any public purpose.

— Tabled a motion to eliminate compost collections for the months of July, August and September as proposed by DPW Superintendent Guy Forstrom. The board will explore other options to lower the cost of labor and maintenance.