Tag Archives: lead

Is Your Water System Contaminated?

160628084826-map-nrdc-water-quality-report-01-exlarge-169You finally planted that garden you’ve always wanted and your first crop has made it to your family’s table. Now you learn that your public water system is contaminated – and has been for years. Your beautiful tomatoes, green beans and peppers have been cultivated with contaminated water.

When we read that thousands of public water systems in the US, affecting millions of people, have unhealthy levels of lead and copper, we should be concerned about the laws in place that are supposed to protect and preserve the health and well-being of our nation’s citizens.

According to CNN, “More than 5,300 water systems in America are in violation of the EPA’s lead and copper rule, a federal regulation in place to safeguard America’s drinking water from its aging infrastructure.”

The story goes on to report, “Violations include failure to properly test water for lead, failure to report contamination to residents, and failure to treat water properly to avoid lead contamination. Yet, states took action in 817 cases; the EPA took action in just 88 cases, according to NRDC’s report.

What’s worse, the report reveals that the EPA is also aware that many utilities “game the system,” using flawed or questionable testing methods in order to avoid detecting high levels of lead. 

That means there could be many more communities violating the laws, exposing residents to dangerous levels of lead. And the public has no idea.”

The article reports that 18 million people currently reside in areas with water systems that don’t meet legal standards AND the EPA is not addressing these violations.

Is your water contaminated?

Lead in Seattle Water

Seattle Public Utilities asked residents to run their water for two minutes before drinking over concerns of lead exposure.

SPU is testing water that MAY have their supply line connection to the house service line using gooseneck fitting. As of Friday, SPU estimates 2,000 older homes may have this gooseneck fitting, with Tacoma estimated at 1,700. Both Utilities have been testing and mapping throughout the weekend.

It shows a "gooseneck" lead fitting that connected galvanized steel pipe to the main water line in older homes.
It shows a “gooseneck” lead fitting that connected galvanized steel pipe to the main water line in older homes.

This gooseneck lead fitting is the sort connecting water mains to pipes leading into older homes. In Seattle, it’s typically in homes built before 1930, and only some of those. (Chris Gleason/Tacoma Public Utilities)

According to SPU, “Seattle drinking water sources do not contain lead. However, lead can leach into water from plumbing and materials built with lead-based solder, brass fixtures, or some types of zinc coatings used on galvanized pipes and fittings.”

NSF/ANSI 372 has an updated definition of the “no lead” ruling allowing a weighted average of 0.25 % lead in fittings, pipe, and solder – a far cry from 8.0% in the past. Galvanized pipe and plumbing has not been used for potable water supplies for decades. However, copper plumbing and its solder was not held to the above standards until January 2014. Copper plumbing or brass fittings used before this standard may cause an elevated level of contamination above the allowed EPA drinking water standards for lead. You can have your water tested for levels from a certified lab in your area; a list of certified labs can be obtained by the Department of Ecology.

RainBank’s’ post Is Decentralized Water and Sewer Systems the Answer to Puget Sound Region’s Infrastructure, dated July 2014, talks about the effects of this growth, demand and aging infrastructure and how it will impact our water and sewer systems economically.

As time will tell, more concerns will arise with our centralized water system. Costs to upgrade, renovate and repair will be high. Rainwater collection as a source of domestic water will become more mainstream – as already seen in Seattle and other cities throughout the US in the past few years. Proper filtration and plumbing techniques can be implemented for the homeowner to protect a household from lead leaching because older materials were used in the past. RainBank Rainwater Systems designs these systems for both those who wish to collect rainwater for domestic use and those who remain dependent on city water supplies.

Flint Opens Floodgates for Testing Water Quality

Exemplary pictures looking into Flint drinking water pipes, showing different kinds of iron corrosion and rust (Photo: Min Tang and Kelsey Pieper) http://flintwaterstudy.org/tag/drinking-water/
Exemplary pictures looking into Flint drinking water pipes, showing different kinds of iron corrosion and rust (Photo: Min Tang and Kelsey Pieper) http://flintwaterstudy.org/tag/drinking-water/

We at RainBank have been writing about declining water quality in public systems in the United States since we started sharing information in 2014. Aging infrastructure is an issue that has been known for quite a long time, but only recently has been brought to greater awareness because of the Flint lead poisoning crisis. Older public water systems are typically comprised of galvanized pipe and can be 70 or more years old. This issue of contaminated water is not new, but has been building over many years and is becoming more widely known because more testing is being performed.

A recent article in USA Today, Beyond Flint: Excessive lead levels found in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states, the jarring results of an independent study found that of water systems tested, lead levels beyond EPA standards were found. Overall, these systems provide water to 6 million people, a percentage of which supply drinking water to facilities where children gather or reside – and where some of the highest levels were found. Additionally, some didn’t even notify the public.

Coast to coast, water quality awareness is being raised and tests are being performed. At NJ.com, it was reported that a hospital in Morristown, NJ recently learned of rising lead levels in its water supply, reporting, Twenty-eight out of 39 samples tested by the hospital on Feb. 22 were above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s action limit of 15 parts per billion…” Also in Newark, NJ, the largest city in the state, the school system is testing students for lead because, not only was it discovered the levels were high, but it has been known for years – and not reported. (Read more from The NY Times Newark Schools to Test Pupils for Lead as Officials Cite Longstanding Problem)

The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

And it’s not just lead. In the Puget Sound, drugs were found in salmon from fouled wastewater. “Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, even cocaine. Those drugs and dozens of others are showing up in the tissues of juvenile chinook, researchers have found, thanks to tainted wastewater discharge.” Additionally, common over the counter pharmaceuticals like Flonase, Aleve and Tylenol were present, along with Paxil, Valium and Zoloft, Tagamet, OxyContin and Darvon. Nicotine and caffeine, fungicides, antiseptics and anticoagulants and Cipro and other antibiotics – were also included in this toxic mix. According to the Seattle Times, “the findings are of concern because most of the chemicals detected are not monitored or regulated in wastewater, and there is little or no established science on the environmental toxicity for the vast majority of the compounds detected.”

Of course, we believe the best solution is rainwater collection. Water harvested from roof runoff is relatively clean and can be used to bypass or supplement city or well water. It has commercial and residential applications that run from drinking to irrigation, toilet flushing, vehicle wash down  and more. Contact us for more information.