Dowagiac officials address lead concerns, outline plans to replace lead service lines

Published 4:15 pm Monday, October 2, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The City of Dowagiac is taking proactive measures to ensure the community’s safety after lead was found to be above the Action Level in a 2022 sample of 17 city homes.

Mayor Don Lyons and City Manager Kevin Anderson hosted a press conference providing the latest information and answering questions from the media.

(Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons addresses the media Monday. Maxwell Harden | Leader Publications)

Lyons and Anderson emphasized that Dowagiac’s source water is safe with no concerns regarding contaminants. The presence of lead was found to be primarily in service lines and household plumbing of older homes, not the source water itself.

According to Lyons and Anderson, the city recently completed follow-up testing that resulted in a 90th percentile value under 15 ppb, which is below the Action Level.

“Unlike some other communities throughout the state, this is not a problem with the source water that comes from the wells, that comes from the treatment plant, that comes through the pipes to the house,” Anderson said. “This is really a situation that has arisen because people may have lead pipes inside their house or have lead service leads that come to the house.”

“This is a problem that occurs in individual homes and that severely limits our ability to deal with it,” Lyons added.

Dowagiac Union Schools has been notified of the situation and will coordinate with MDHHS. Lyons said daycares in the city have been informed and that the city installed filters inside their facilities.

Anderson added that the city also wants city residents to help it better identify houses with lead pipes and service so that it can improve its records to better address those situations.

“We’re asking for help so that as we are going forward, we are properly spending money when it comes to replacing lines and that, when we’re applying for various state and federal monetary support to help with those, we can do that  with good, solid information.”

(Dowagiac City Manager Kevin addresses the media Monday. Maxwell Harden | Leader Publications)

Anderson said the city has taken steps toward addressing the city’s service lines. 47 properties along Division Street are currently having service lines replaced. In addition, the city is expanding its survey from 20 homes to more than 40 homes.

“This is something we’ve been conscious of and concerned about,” he said. “We are continuing our commitment to testing and not only are we continuing that commitment, we’re expanding that. We’ve always had to do this for 20 homes. We’re going to do a survey of at least 40 homes.

“We’re also just continuing to look at water treatment and continuing to keep a close eye and monitor that. Again, it’s not a source issue.”

While the city continues to address its service lines, Lyons and Anderson encourage city residents to acquire a free water filter from either the city or MDHHS to ensure safe drinking water in the meantime. 

MDHHS recommends every household use a certified lead filter to reduce lead from their drinking water, especially households with a child, pregnant person, or individual with high blood pressure, or people residing in houses built before 1987. MDHHS also recommends making baby formula or cooking with filtered water.

The city will provide one filter per household served by the City of Dowagiac water utility for those who do not qualify for free MDHHS filters. Residents can pick up a free filter at Dowagiac City Hall or at Van Buren-Cass District Health Department, 302 Main St., Dowagiac.

While the city can not force residents to pick up a free filter, Lyons and Anderson encourage them to do so for their safety.
“We can’t mandate that they use it. There’s no longer books that we can enforce but we can encourage it,” Lyons said. “Like COVID vaccines, not everybody is going to agree with it. Not everybody will think it’s going to be a good idea but the option is here and it doesn’t cost him money. We’re just saying for your own health and safety, please use the filters for any water that you’re going to ingest.”

Community members interested in having their water lines inspected for lead can contact the Van Buren-Cass District Health Department or the city’s department of public works.

“We are happy to go in your home to see where that pipe came through. We can tell almost always just by looking at it if it is lead or not. If it is, then we’ll add that to our database. We’ll have to dig up your yard because it’s buried probably four feet down because it needs to be below the frost line. It’s eminently doable and given time and resources, it is our goal to have every one of those lead leads in town out. But that doesn’t solve the problem with what’s in your house. That’s the bigger issue and in these old homes, as I know from my 1895 home, it’s there. “You can get a test and if it comes back clean, you’re good, don’t worry about it. If it doesn’t, use a filter but one way or the other might as well use a filter.”

Readers with questions about:

  • Service line materials for your home: Dowagiac Customers contact us at 269-782-2195 to learn more about their service line and schedule an inspection.
  • Testing your water for lead: Visit for a list of certified labs.
  • Health related questions: Contact the Van Buren/Cass Community Health Agency at 269-254-7449.
  • Operating a food establishment such as a store, restaurant, bar, or food manufacturing establishment: Visit this page for specific information for food firms.
  • Regulatory questions about the Safe Drinking Water Act: Contact EGLE at 800-662-9278.

Pokagon Health Services is also providing support for Pokagon Band Citizens.  Please contact Pokagon Health Services at (269) 782-4141.

Additional information regarding lead can be found at Dowagiac’s website or at EGLE and MDHHS websites: or