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Water Blog - Lead in water

Problems with drinking water in Flint, Michigan have thrust drinking water quality into the national spotlight for all of the wrong reasons.

Today let's talk about lead in water since that's a big issue in Flint. Nearly all homes have some small amount of lead in their water. Yes it's true. Unless you have all plastic pipes in your house the odds are good that there is lead solder holding copper pipes together.

Our water doesn't have lead in it. So where does lead in tap water come from?

The primary source of lead in drinking water is from copper pipes held together with lead solder . We treat the water to minimize the risk of dissolving the lead from your pipes into your water.

And we're doing a good job according to EPA standards. We handily comply with their Lead and Copper Rule. What that means is that the specific water chemistry we have is balanced in such a way to make it non-aggressive to copper plumbing and the lead solder that holds it together.

It's not easy to get this water chemistry balance right and that is what happened in Flint. They switched water supplies but for some reason didn't pay much attention to the effects that switch would have on basic water chemistry which has in turn resulted in front page news. What's weird for people who study water and work at it all the time is how they missed this. It's very odd as that would be the first question you'd ask. I digress.

Some folks want to be sure of their lead levels at their house under specific conditions. If you're one of those people you can call a state-certified laboratory and ask them for a lead and copper sample bottle. You can easily fill this up yourself, send it in for analysis and see what the results are. If you do that you can call us up and we'll explain what the risk is.

My advice for most people who are worried about lead in their drinking water is to run the water until it's cold. That flushes out the warm water that has sat motionless in your pipes. When the water is motionless it dissolves small amounts of metals and over time, these levels accumulate. When you flush that warm water out and get the cold water from the mains in the street you know you're drinking water that hasn't had time to leach out lead and copper from your indoor plumbing.

If you have questions about lead in your water call or email us or contact the state's Drinking Water Program at 287-2070. We want you to be informed and thoughtful water drinkers.

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