Q and A About Lead in Drinking Water

 

Does Water Supplied by the Snake River Water District Contain Lead?

Water provided by the Snake River Water District (SRWD) was tested on October 25, 2017 and was below the minimum level detectable of 0.5 parts per billion.

 

Does Drinking Water Within the SRWD Contain Lead?

While the water supplied by the SRWD does not contain lead, lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water.

Homes built before 1988 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has reduced the maximum allowable lead content — that is, content that is considered “lead-free” — to be a weighted average of 0.25 percent calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux.

New homes may also have lead; even “lead-free” plumbing may contain some lead.

 

How Many Homes within the SRWD Were Built Before 1988

Approximately 43% of the homes/buildings within the SRWD were built before 1988, and consequently may present more potential for lead entering drinking water through fixtures and pipes within the home.  Information on when a property was built can be obtained on the Summit County Website at httpp://gis.summitcountyco.gov/Map/.

 

What are Lead Levels within the SRWD?

In 2017, at the direction of the monitoring year the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the SRWD increased lead monitoring from 10 sample sites every 3 years to 20 sample sites every year.

While water provided by the SRWD has undetectable levels of lead, lead levels as tested at the tap exceeded the EPA lead action level in its drinking water during routine sampling.  The EPA has set an action level for lead at 15 parts per billion based on the 90th percentile of all sample results.  Our 90th percentile for lead was 16.8 parts per billion or 1.8 parts per billion over the EPA action level.  The SRWD collected 20 samples and 3 samples were above the 15 parts per billion action level.  Between 2002 and 2016 40 samples were collected with lead levels ranging from 0.5 parts per billion to 10.1 parts per billion and the average of the 40 samples was 2.3 parts per billion lead.

 

Is there a safe level of lead in drinking water?

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.

Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. For more information regarding the health effects of lead, please visit http://epa.gov/lead.

 

Can I shower in lead-contaminated water?

Yes. Bathing and showering should be safe for you and your children, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.  This information applies to most situations and to a large majority of the population, but individual circumstances may vary.

 

What are the Health Effects of Lead?

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.

 

What are Other Sources of Lead?

Lead is a common metal found in the environment. Drinking water is one possible source of lead exposure. The main sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust or soil, and some plumbing materials. In addition, lead can be found in certain types of pottery, pewter, brass fixtures, food, and cosmetics. Other sources include exposure in the work place and exposure from certain hobbies (lead can be carried on clothing or shoes).

Don’t forget about other sources of lead such as lead paint, lead dust, and lead in soil. Wash your children’s hands and toys often as they can come into contact with dirt and dust containing lead.

 

What is being done by the SRWD?

 The SRWD takes these actions with the utmost of concern and caution, and are promptly taking all steps available to both advise the public of these test results and investigate the cause of such results.

In addition to educating the public about this concern, the SRWD is taking the following steps to improve their understanding of the extent of lead in water as it is supplied at the tap:

  • The SRWD will be conducting lead and copper monitoring on a six-month frequency at 40 sample sites beginning January 2018. If you would like to participate in the lead and copper sampling and your home was built before 1987 please contact Ron Mentch at 970-390-6857.
  • The SRWD has completed water quality monitoring at 3 different tap sample sites and 2 entry point sites for pH, temperature, alkalinity, calcium (as CaCO3), conductivity, total phosphorus, chloride, sulfate, iron and manganese.

The SRWD is investigating the cause of the high lead results as well as any corrosivity of the water supply on plumbing materials within our service area.  To this end, the SRWD will also be contracting with a professional engineer to study this issue and an Optimal Corrosion Control Treatment recommendation will be provided to the CDPHE no later than March 31, 2018.

 

What can I do to Minimize my Exposure to Lead?

  1. Flush Your Pipes Before Drinking.  If it hasn’t been used for several hours, run the cold water tap until it becomes as cold as it will get.  This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.
  2. Always use cold water for drinking, cooking, and especially for preparing baby formula.   Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.  Boiling water does not remove lead from water.
  3. The two actions recommended above are very important to the health of your family.  They will probably be effective in reducing lead levels because most of the lead in household water comes from the plumbing in your house, not from the local water supply.
  4. Regularly clean your faucets screen (also known as an aerator)
  5. Consider  Using a water filter certified to remove lead and know when it’s time to replace the filter, make sure it is certified under Standard 53 by NSF International to remove lead. Contact NSF at 1-800-NSF-8010 or visit www.nsf.org. You may also visit the Water Quality Association’s website at www.wqa.org.
  6. Consider testing your water for lead. Call us at the number below to find out how to get your water tested for lead. A list of certified laboratories is listed at www.colorado.gov/cdphe/laboratory-certification-program.
  7. Consider getting your child’s blood tested. Summit County Public Health Department offers low cost blood lead screenings ($10), to schedule an appointment call 970-668-9161.
  8. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may leach lead into drinking water. The NSF website at www.nsf.org has more information on lead-containing plumbing fixtures. You should use only lead-certified contractors.
  9. Have a licensed electrician check your wiring. If grounding wires from the electrical system are attached to your pipes, corrosion may be greater. Check with a licensed electrician or your local electric code to determine if your wiring can be grounded elsewhere. DO NOT attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
  10. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free”, may contribute lead to drinking water. The law currently allows end-use brass fixtures, such as faucets, with up to eight percent lead to be labeled as “lead free”. However, plumbing fixtures labeled National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified may only have up two percent lead. Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions.  Infants who consume mostly formula mixed with the lead-containing water can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

 

Where Can I Find More Information?

For more information call the Snake River Water District at 970-468-0328.
For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home/building and the health effects of

lead, visit EPA’s Web site at http://www.epa.gov/lead or contact your health care provider.