UP THE CREEK
March 1, 2008
This month’s newsletter concerns lead. Lead in drinking water is currently receiving national media attention, leading inevitably to provocative stories, and advertisements for products that supposedly remove lead. Be assured that your drinking water need not pose a threat to your health if you follow the recommendations below. The language in the following section is required by the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations for any water system finding lead concentrations exceeding the action level of 15 parts per billion. Some points specific to our system have been added.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USCDWUA are concerned about lead in your drinking water. Some drinking water samples taken from the system have lead levels above the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water(mg/L). Under Federal law we are required to have a program in place to minimize lead in your drinking water by the end of 2008. This program includes corrosion control treatment, source water treatment, and public education. If you have any questions about how we are carrying out the requirements of the lead regulation please give us a call at 970-856-7199.
This letter explains the simple steps you can take to protect yourself by reducing your exposure to lead in drinking water. Lead is found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery porcelain and pewter, and water. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won't hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies. In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination—like dirt and dust—that rarely affect an adult. It is important to wash children's hands and toys often, and to try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.
Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase an individual's total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. The EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of an individual's total exposure to lead. Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, brass pressure regulators, brass pipes, and brass valves. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8%. Some older water systems used lead service lines connecting the house to the main line. USCDWUA has never had any lead pipelines.
When water stands in plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into your drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon if the water has not been used all day, can contain fairly high levels of lead. Here are some steps you can take to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water.
• Let the water run from the tap before using it for drinking or cooking any time the water in a faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. The longer water resides in plumbing the more lead it may contain. Flushing the tap means running the cold water faucet for about 15-30 seconds. Although toilet flushing or showering flushes water through a portion of the plumbing system, you still need to flush the water in each faucet before using it for drinking or cooking. Flushing tap water is a simple and inexpensive measure you can take to protect your health. It usually consumes less than one gallon of water.
• Do not install a water softener in your home. The natural softness of our water supply makes it slightly corrosive to plumbing. Further softening will make the problem worse.
• Do not cook with, or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve more lead than cold water. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap and then heat it.
• The steps described above will reduce the lead concentrations in your drinking water. However, if you are still concerned, you may wish to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. However, you must rely on your bottled water vendor for information about lead level.
• You can consult a variety of sources for additional information. Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead. You can contact Dan Hawkins, Manager of USCDWUA for information about your facility's water supply. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at(303) 692-3500 or the Delta County Health Department at (970) 874-2165 can provide you with information about the health effects of lead.