Ann Arbor agrees to release records on lead in city’s water system

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor officials have agreed to release information about where there were once lead components in the city’s water system and where some residents may need to have their water service lines replaced due to potential contamination.
The City Council voted 11-0 Monday night, Nov. 19, to direct the city staff to compile the information by Dec. 31 and release it in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Ann Arbor News and MLive.
After enactment of stricter Michigan regulations for lead, city officials said in September that thousands of Ann Arbor homeowners may need their water service lines replaced with new copper piping if they still have galvanized steel pipes that were once connected to lead "goosenecks" in the city’s water system.
Even though all known lead parts have been removed from the city’s water system, the city maintains, remaining galvanized lines that run under lawns or driveways to homes still can harbor lead and be a source of drinking water contamination.
The News put its FOIA request on hold when two City Council members, Jack Eaton and Anne Bannister, announced intentions to support publicly releasing the information without charge.
"The public wants to know about where the lead was, where the galvanized pipe remains, and MLive is willing to disseminate that information to the public," said Eaton, D-4th Ward.
They received some pushback Monday night from the city administrator, who continued to raised concerns about releasing information under FOIA without charging for it.
In its FOIA request in September, The News asked the city to release the following information: Records showing the known locations of lead components removed from the city’s water system.
Council Member Chip Smith, D-5th Ward, said he looks at FOIA fees as simple cost recovery for the city, though he agreed the information requested in this case should be public.
That’s due to the state by Jan. 1, 2020, and then the city must gradually replace the old pipes — potentially around 2,500 of them — starting in 2021.

Learn More