Which Cleveland suburbs have the most lead water pipes?

Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 18:21:44-05

In the past, we've uncovered lead poisoning problems plaguing the City of Cleveland as more than a thousand Cleveland children test positive for elevated levels every year. 

But now we're taking a closer look at which suburbs are also at risk. 

Thursday was the deadline for all public water systems to submit maps of their lead piping to the state and numbers in some historic Cleveland suburbs are raising some concerns. 

Ten suburbs with the highest percentage of Cleveland Water pipes that are likely lead: 

  • Newburgh Heights - 83.3 percent
  • Shaker Heights - 74.2 percent
  • University Heights - 70.8 percent
  • Euclid - 70.8 percent
  • South Euclid - 68.1 percent
  • Garfield Heights - 64.6 percent
  • Maple Heights - 64.2 percent
  • Fairview Park - 64.0 percent
  • Mayfield Heights - 53.7 percent
  • Parma - 50.5 percent

* Although levels in Linndale, Lakewood and Highland Hills fell in the top 10, the percentages were skewed because the majority of their pipes are not serviced by Cleveland Water. 

After issues in Flint, any mention of lead pipes raises alarms. 

Across the City of Cleveland, between 59 and 89 percent of all water pipes are likely made of lead. 

And data submitted this week to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency shows those high numbers aren't unique to Cleveland. 

"There is a shock factor when you see your city listed in the top five of all the communities," said University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld. 

She told News 5 she's aware that more than 70 percent of the pipes in her city are likely lead. 

RELATED | Parts of Cleveland have higher levels of lead than Flint, Michigan

"That has to do with the age of our infrastructure and the age of our homes," she said. 

Many of the homes in the city were built before 1954, when lead was the top material. 

Shaker Heights is also on the list, with more than 74 percent of its pipes likely made with lead. 

In a statement, Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken said the Cleveland Water Dept. has been very effective keeping lead out of its water and monitors water quality closely. 

"Lead exposure is a challenge facing every community with older housing stock," Leiken said. "The vast majority of Cleveland Water Department pipes that deliver water to Shaker homes were installed many decades ago, when the use of lead pipes was standard. These pipes are gradually being replaced and the process for doing so takes time." 

The Ohio Environmental Council tells News 5 that numbers in that range are high but residents shouldn't equate them with actual lead contamination. 

"They should equate it with a higher risk for that to happen," said Melanie Houston of the Ohio Environmental Council. 

That's because Cleveland Water uses orthophosphate which prevents lead from leaching out of the pipes. 

According to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, University Heights and Shaker Heights combined had 30 confirmed cases of elevated blood lead levels in 2015. Fortunately, there were far fewer than Cleveland, which saw more than 1,400. 

Only about 81 percent of the state's public water systems made the EPA's deadline so we're still waiting to see how Northeast Ohio stacks up compared to the rest of the state.