Niles officials assure residents that water is safe for consumption following letter

NILES — Residents may have received an additional letter with their last water bill.

The letter is headed stating that it is “important information about your drinking water, monitoring requirements not met for City of Niles.” In the letter, residents read that the city’s required water safety test early in the year did not happen according to state mandated schedule. The test had to be repeated. The results from the second test concluded that the city’s drinking water is safe for use and consumption.

“It’s scary sometimes when you get a letter if you don’t understand,” said Leanne Caddy, Niles water superintendent. “People tend to panic a little bit, but that’s not the case at all.”

According to Caddy, a routine drinking water test had been sent to Eagle Labs in Lansing within the time period between Jan. 1 and March 31, but the test was not able to be completed.

“According to [the lab’s] standard that they use to test, our samples did not meet their pH,” Caddy said. “Therefore, it could not be counted as being done during that monitoring period. As soon as I got the results back from the state, we went ahead and retested. Everything was fine.”

Caddy reassured customers the drinking water in Niles is safe.

“I’m not sure what happened. I do know that the pH did not affect the quality of water though,” she said. “[The lab] didn’t give us a reason, they just wanted us to resample. We did, and everything was fine.”

The timing of the test may have led to issues in the process. According to the letter, the samples to be sent were collected on March 17. The test is specifically for volatile organic chemicals in the water.

“We collected the required follow-up samples April 9, 2020, which met the drinking water standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Our staff is making every effort to assure this does not happen again,” according to the letter.

Many lab procedures have changed since the original sample was sent by the city in March.

“At the start of COVID-19, and due to the virus, the lab has changed a lot of their procedures,” Caddy said. “We can’t mail things to the lab anymore. We used to be able to mail our water samples via UPS, but they can’t guarantee an adequate drop off time.”

Another hurdle the water department has encountered is the thermal preservation of samples. The lab now requires those who need tests to schedule an appointment, meaning the transportation of the sample is now a different process to adapt to as well.

The letters were sent out as part of any monitoring violation protocol.

“It’s the most efficient way to let everybody know,” Caddy said.

The letter sent to residents answers the question, “what should I do?” with a simple answer: nothing.

“This is not an emergency. You do not need to boil water or use an alternative source of water at this time. Even though this is not an emergency, as our customers, you have the right to know what happened what we are doing to correct the situation.”