Safe Water Engineering


Safe Water Engineering LLC was founded by Elin Betanzo to improve access to safe drinking water through engineering and policy consulting.

Posts in drinking water
One Solution for Safer Drinking Water in Schools

There is lead in almost all our plumbing. Even "lead free" plumbing contains up to 0.25% lead, and prior to 2014 materials marked "lead free" could contain up to 8% lead. So we know there is lead in most school plumbing. We also know that schools have irregular water use patterns. Weekends with no one in the building, long breaks, and long summers with little water use. When fresh water does not run through the pipes, corrosion control doesn't get a chance to work when it is used in water treatment. That means that when there is lead in the plumbing in schools, there is usually lead in the water. So I wasn't surprised when lead was measured in the water at my childrens' school.  I knew we were lucky to have one filtered water bottle filling station at the school. I send my kids to school each day with a refillable water bottle, and they fill it up at school filter station whenever they need more.

It was a great opportunity to work with Dave Woodward and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha to acquire 650 filter stations in Oakland County. Now my kids' school will have two filter stations and schools across the county will have the option to have safer water. The filters will have to be replaced according to the manufacturer's instructions, but they have a counter that shows when the filter needs to be replaced. It's not a bad idea to test the filtered water periodically to verify that the filters are performing according to their certification. With these new stations available, all students, faculty, and staff should be directed to drink water at the filter stations. All other taps should be designated for hand washing and other non-potable uses. Once students adjust to this culture change of only using filter stations, we can stop sampling at all the non-drinking water taps and focus only on those that students and staff are using for drinking. 

Great job Oakland County.  While providing safer, more reliable drinking water quality we can also keep plastic bottles out of the recycling bins and landfills. 


Photo: Dave Woodward
A New Lead and Copper Rule for Michigan
637 Mt Vernon_home_lead_2_14_18.jpg

The State of Michigan revised its Lead and Copper Rule on June 14, 2018. The new rule will require water utilities to inventory all service lines and replace lead and galvanized service lines from the water main in the street to inside the customer's home. This is a big step forward that will improve infrastructure management and public health protection as water utilities improve their records, residents receive improved communications about the risk of lead in drinking water, and a future without lead pipes is closer to reality. My op-ed explaining the importance of the revised Lead and Copper Rule can be found here at Bridge Magazine.



Improvements Needed to the Public Notification Rule Following Hurricane Maria

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017, it took months before public water systems had electricity restored and were able to distribute safe drinking water to the public again. This public health emergency highlighted several opportunities to provide more reliable information to the public about the status of their drinking water during a natural disaster. This journal article in Environmental Health Reports provides several recommendations for improving the Public Notification Rule under the Safe Drinking Water Act based on experiences in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. These include:

A man collects water after Hurricane Maria cuts water service to his home in Puerto Rico. Photo: David Harvey

A man collects water after Hurricane Maria cuts water service to his home in Puerto Rico. Photo: David Harvey

  • Defining a “waterborne emergency” as anytime when the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services declares a Public Health Emergency and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed there are potential impacts to drinking water quality, thus triggering the requirements of the Public Notification Rule.

  • Requiring Primacy Agencies to report to the EPA and track all public water systems issuing public notifications following a waterborne emergency to facilitate identification of water systems that may need recovery assistance.

  • Requiring public water systems to perform water quality sampling and analysis with a certified laboratory to demonstrate that water quality meets pre-disaster conditions prior to rescinding public notice.

  • Requiring water quality sampling based on potential hazards identified in the public water system’s source water assessments and other potential hazards identified following the waterborne emergency, even if the water system qualified for reduced monitoring prior to the emergency.

  • Requiring primacy agencies to continue tracking public notice and update the status of public water systems until all have returned to service following water quality sampling and analysis.

These updates to the Public Notification Rule would increase the public’s knowledge about their drinking water quality during a waterborne emergency. They will also allow for state, territorial, and federal governments to better assess and provide the resources needed to ensure public water systems are recovering from the waterborne emergency. Wide scale reporting on the status of drinking water supplied by public water systems during the disaster recovery phase will increase public confidence in the safety of drinking water while protecting the population from widespread disease.

Click here for the article 

Lead Action Level Exceedance in Beverly Hills, Michigan


The Village of Beverly Hills, Michigan exceeded the lead action level as a result of compliance sampling completed in summer 2017. While the high lead level measured does not indicate wide spread risk in Beverly Hills, it demonstrates that homes with lead service lines are at increased risk of exposure to lead in drinking water. Articles posted at Michigan Radio by Lindsey Smith provide a good summary of what happened:

Detroit suburb says it’s “paying for the sins” of MDEQ in Flint water crisis, sues state

Reporter’s Notebook: Clarifying FAQ after Beverly Hills lead in water story