Green SanctuaryWhat About Our Water?

The lead poisoning in Flint has increased people’s awareness of issues with water quality and quantity.  On April 16, the Kalamazoo Environmental Council hosted a discussion featuring John Paquin, Environmental Services Program Manager for the City of Kalamazoo; Duane Hampton, Associate Professor of Geosciences at WMU; and Pat Crowley, Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner.  Here are some highlights:

John Paquin:  The City of Kalamazoo uses groundwater, with 17 wellfields and 16 pumping stations providing an average of 20 million gallons/day.  There is an active wellhead protection program.  Chlorine is added to disinfect, fluoride for dental health, and polyphosphate for iron and corrosion control.  Some well fields also use air stripping to remove volatile organic chemicals.  Lead service pipes are removed during street projects and pipe repairs; a few thousand such lines remain.  For more information, watch the 4-minute video at

Duane Hampton:  Contamination is usually a lesser problem for groundwater than for surface water.   Groundwater is filtered by sand so treatment needs are minimal, and it tends to be harder, causing lime deposits that protect pipes from corrosion.  However, homes built before 1982 may have lead-based solder connecting copper pipes.  If you have a private well, other concerns are nitrates and bacteria.  You can order a test kit from KAR labs,, for $50.  Be careful about relying on filtration systems since they don’t solve bacterial problems, and some are not effective for lead.

Pat Crowley:  Most of Kalamazoo County has a very high water table.  Unfortunately, many houses built in the 1980s, during a very low water period, are in areas that later turned out to be flood prone.   Most natural streams will hold the runoff from a 2-inch storm, but when we pave surfaces almost all the rain runs off, carrying pollutants with it.  Using strategies to slow the water down and move it into a filtering system will minimize flooding and protect water quality.

More information may be found at

Free testing for lead and copper in water is available
For Kalamazoo City water users: call 337-8550
In Portage: call 324-9235

Article written by Connie Ferguson

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