Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is found just about everywhere at low levels in air, water, soil, and food. Higher levels could be due to the historical uses of lead in gasoline and paint, and from the air emissions of lead-related industries. Lead particles can be found in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and in the things we touch. In higher levels, it can be harmful. Progress has been made in reducing levels of lead in our environment. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) remains focused on achieving even more reductions.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) protects public health by setting limits on how much lead can be in outdoor air. In November 2008, the USEPA lowered those limits because health research data showed that it would better protect public health. The limits were lowered from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 0.15 µg/m3, which makes the new limit ten times lower than the previous one.
Michigan Air Emissions Reporting System (MAERS) data showed that four facilities in Michigan were emitting one ton or more per year of lead. Mueller Industries' Belding location was one of those facilities. Further evaluation and computer modeling showed that Mueller was likely to exceed the new protective health standard; therefore, a monitor was installed in January 2010. Over the spring and summer months of 2010, the monitor recorded lead levels that exceeded the USEPA's new, stricter standard. The highest three-month lead level thus far has been 0.28 µg/m3, or roughly two times the acceptable standard. Monitoring will continue at the site in Belding until it shows three consecutive years of meeting the health standard. For more information, please review the fact sheet from the September 23, 2010 public meeting.
In July of 2011, DEQ installed a second lead monitor on Reed Street in Belding to determine how lead concentrations varied further downwind. The Reed Street monitor showed an initial three-month average exceedance of the standard in September 2011. Monitor results since that time have shown compliance with the three-month average NAAQS limit. Results from the Merrick Street monitor have shown compliance with the NAAQS for lead since November 2010.
The DEQ continues to monitor lead levels in the ambient air and will do so until the site meets the USEPA's protective health standard for at least three years. In addition, the department has completed soil testing. Below is the most recent data available. Please routinely check this section of the webpage for technical information updates.
Recent USEPA actions finalized Michigan's lead designations for the new NAAQS.
The DEQ committed to working with Mueller Industries to remedy the situation and ensure that proper actions were taken. The DEQ is working with the Belding community and state and local agencies to keep the people of Belding informed about progress, answering all residents' questions, connecting them to the best health information resources, and ensuring accurate information is shared.
The following is information shared (to date). All DEQ documents are public records available for viewing and copying under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
What is Being Done to Lower the Airborne Lead Levels in Belding?
Mueller Industries operates equipment that emits lead during the brass rod making process. The equipment operates under DEQ air permits that restrict the emissions of air contaminants, including lead, and require control devices that reduce air emissions. At the request of the DEQ, on September 28, 2009, Mueller Industries conducted testing to evaluate the air emissions. Test results showed the West Chip Dryer exceeded permitted emission limits. On December 28, 2009, the DEQ issued a violation notice for the emission exceedance.
In response, Mueller industries modified its control equipment; and in June 2010, preliminary testing revealed reduced lead emissions. To control emissions further, an enhanced scrubber system was installed on the West Chip Dryer during the week of September 13, 2010. New testing was conducted October 1, 2010, which determined that lead emissions from the West Chip Dryer were in compliance with the permitted limits. To further ensure that lead emissions from the facility are in compliance with permitted limits, testing was conducted November 4 and 5, 2010, on the east and west baghouses which control emissions from the facility's three brass melting furnaces. The test results showed the emissions from the brass melting furnaces were in compliance with the permitted limits.
Soil Sampling and Clean-Up in Belding
As of today, all of the residential properties to the east of the Mueller Industries-Extruded Metals, facility meet the State lead clean-up standard for residential property of 400 mg/kg (ppm).
Health Department Contacts
Other Helpful Lead Information Links