Safe Water for Grand Rapids' Children


To ensure the safety of Grand Rapids' children, the Healthy Homes Coalition began testing the water at the Baxter Child Development Center on Wednesday, July 19. The water testing, which will identify any lead hazards in the drinking water, is part of a larger project the Healthy Homes Coalition is conducting in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Along with protecting children, the project also has the goal of developing a commonsense protocol for water testing in child care facilities across the nation.

How does lead get into drinking water? Lead can make its way into the drinking water through lead service lines, lead solder, and even brass fixtures manufactured before 2014. A service line is a pipe that connects your home (or in this case, the child care center) to the water main in the street. This pipe may be made of lead and is the largest potential source of lead exposure in drinking water, so it is important to identify if you have a lead service line. To find out more about your home’s service line, you can call your drinking water provider. If you live in the City of Grand Rapids, you can call 311 and they can look up your service line by address. 

How can you find out if you have lead in your drinking water? The only way to confirm if your tap water contains lead is to have it tested. The Kent County Health Department provides water testing at $18 per sample. Additionally, there are several everyday actions that you can take to protect your children from exposure to lead in drinking water:

  • Be sure to use only cold tap water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula and cereal.
  • Flush your cold water tap if water has not been used in several hours.
  • Install a water filter that has been NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified for lead reduction.
  • Clean your faucet aerators periodically.

EDF and the Healthy Homes Coalition are working to identify the costs and benefits of having a required protocol for water testing at child care facilities.  In many instances, children spend as much time at their daycare as they do in the home. Making sure they have safe drinking water is an important step in ensuring optimal brain development in children that has lifetime effects.

Ashley Zuverink, special projects assistant at Healthy Homes, visited Baxter Child Development Center on July 19th and 20th to begin water testing. Following a comprehensive protocol, 85 water samples were shipped off for analysis. Additionally, the pilot project is utilizing a field meter, called Palintest, to quickly identify any areas of concern while waiting for results from the more in-depth labaratory analysis.

The Healthy Homes Coalition will also collaborate with the Hill Child Development Center as a second location for the pilot. Water testing at Hill CDC will take place sometime in August.