Two Wakefield houses fail water test

November 28, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Drinking water contains more lead than federal safety standards allow in two of 22 houses in the Wakefield Valley area tested by Westminster city government this year.

Meanwhile, Westminster's major water supply system, which is separate from the system that serves Wakefield, passed a lead test with results well within the safety standard, said Paula Martin, city water plant superintendent.

After the two houses in the Wakefield area turned up lead above acceptable levels, Westminster had the two wells that supply water to Wakefield customers tested. The city had not received results last week from those well tests.

But Ms. Martin believes the source of the two Wakefield homes' lead is more likely to be the houses' plumbing than the city water system.

"From everything I've read, lead is not something that is in the [well] water," but is more likely to enter drinking water from lead pipes or lead solder, she said.

She said the pipes that carry water from the storage tank on Sawgrass Court to customers' houses contain no lead or lead solder.

Ms. Martin said the wells that supply the Wakefield system have consistently passed federal and state water quality tests. The city treats the water only with chlorine to kill disease-causing bacteria and fluoridates it to fight tooth decay, she said.

City Council President Kenneth A. Yowan, who lives in Wakefield Valley, said he has heard "not one word" of concern from his neighbors since the city government sent out lead advisory notices to about 600 water customers two weeks ago.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires local public water supply systems to send out public information notices when lead levels are above the safety standard in a specific percentage of the houses tested.

The EPA requires local systems to test for lead in houses built between 1983 and 1986 because the maximum leaching of lead in plumbing occurs over 10 years and because lead solder was banned from use in water pipes in 1986.

Ms. Martin said 45 houses in Wakefield met that sampling criteria. The city staff contacted all the owners, but 23 refused the tests. Ms. Martin declined to release the names of the two owners whose water exceeded the lead levels.

Drinking water exceeds the federal safety standard if it contains more than 15 parts per billion of lead. One part per billion is the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar in 20 million cups of coffee.

The health risk, according to information from EPA distributed by the city government, is that lead in drinking water can contribute to a buildup of the metal in the body, which may damage the brain, red blood cells and kidneys.

Infants who drink formula and juice concentrates that are mixed with water are particularly at risk.

Westminster is planning to integrate the Wakefield system with the city's main water supply. That plan will involve construction of a second city water treatment plant, said Thomas B. Beyard, city public works director.

Water lines will be in place to connect the two systems when Avondale Run subdivision, under construction, is completed.

But Mr. Beyard said the systems will remain separated because the Wakefield system has lower water pressure than the main system, so integrating the systems is more complicated than just hooking up the lines.

Mr. Beyard said the city staff has begun studying engineering requirements for a second water treatment plant, but two factors will determine when the plant is built: "When we need the water and [availability of] money."

He said a new treatment plant will cost $3 million to $4 million.

REDUCING EXPOSURE

Here are ways that the Environmental Protection Agency says people who have lead in their water supply that exceeds federal safety standards can reduce their exposure:

* Flush the system -- If you have not turned on the water for six hours or longer, let it run from the tap for about 30 seconds before using it.

* Use cold water from the tap -- Hot water can dissolve lead faster than cold, so use cold water for cooking and drinking.

* Remove debris -- Where plumbing is new, remove faucet strainers and run water three to five minutes to flush out loose solder and debris.

* Replace lead materials -- Plumbers can replace lead solder with lead-free solder. Plumbers can also check service lines to determine whether the lines are lead. Owners can have lead lines replaced with copper, steel, iron or plastic pipes.

* Check wiring -- If grounding wires from the electrical system are attached to your pipes, corrosion can be greater. An electrician can determine whether the wires can be grounded elsewhere.

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