Mount Werner Water informs customers of elevated lead levels in some homes
Improvements to address lead to be installed by Thanksgiving 2024
For the second time since July 2020, water testing through Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District shows elevated amounts of lead above state and federal action levels in the drinking water in some homes.
“Any homes or businesses built prior to 1987 could be more at risk due to having older plumbing fixtures that could contain lead,” noted Cat Smith, the district’s business manager.
The district identified the lead exceedance recently when facilitating regular water testing in 60 single-family or multi-family homes built from 1983 to 1987 throughout the district. That testing process, completed twice a year, began in 1987 after the Environmental Protection Agency banned lead in solder in 1986, said Frank Alfone, district general manager.
“Lead can become present within the potable drinking water as it is distributed throughout customer-owned household plumbing, especially in multi-family homes constructed between 1983 and 1987 and single-family homes constructed up to 1987,” according to the notification letter to customers dated Jan. 30.
The water district, established in 1965, reported its first lead exceedance during testing conducted in the first half of 2020.
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body. Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children and pregnant women.
Alfone said the district is working on a design for improving the lead issue to be installed by Thanksgiving 2024, which should become effective three months later. The plan was developed through a corrosion control study of the water distribution system that started in 2020 with the assistance the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. The district currently is working on a funding strategy for the needed upgrades.
“Mount Werner Water has performed extensive analysis and completed several studies of system water quality parameters to determine an economic, efficient and achievable alternative to the existing corrosion control treatment,” Alfone explained. “As a result, MWW is in the design phase to enhance the efficiency of the current (corrosion control treatment) by altering the technique to incorporate the use of lime, carbon dioxide and orthophosphate.
“This process will increase the buffering capacity of the water we process by allowing for more stable pH throughout the entirety of the distribution system. Additionally, utilizing orthophosphate as a corrosion inhibitor has been a longstanding recommended technique for preventing the leaching of soft metals, such as lead and copper, from household plumbing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
1. If the water tap has not been used for several hours, run the cold water until the temperature is noticeably colder to flush lead from the pipes. To conserve water, catch the flushed water for use on plants or other household chores.
2. Always use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Never cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Never use water from the hot tap to make baby formula.
3. Do not boil water to remove lead because boiling will not reduce lead.
4. Periodically remove and clean the faucet’s strainer/aerator, and run the water to remove debris when the aerator is removed.
5. Test the water for lead. Certified laboratories are listed at Colorado.gov/cdphe/laboratory-certification-program including Colorado State University Routt County Extension.
6. 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 NSF.org has more information on lead-containing plumbing fixtures.
7. Consider investing in a home water treatment device or alternative water source. When purchasing a water treatment device, make sure the device is certified under Standard 53 by NSF International to remove lead. Learn more at NSF.org or through the Water Quality Association at WQA.org.
8. Consider having a child’s blood tested by a health care provider if concerned about lead exposure.
Alfone said elevated lead levels have not been found within the distribution system lines but only in water after it passed through homes.
“(The planned improvements) will help the homes because when our water enters the homes, by adjusting the pH and alkalinity of the water and also adding orthophosphate, it will inhibit the lead from leaching out from the water within the home’s internal plumbing systems,” Alfone said.
Nine of the 60 homes in the water sample group of the homes built from 1983 to 1987 tested too high for lead. Overall, across the water district with all ages and types of construction, Alfone estimates the lead exceedance level is less than 1%.
The general manager said after the first notification of lead exceedance in some homes in July 2020, customers asked questions about in-home water filter options. Some customers had their home’s water tested through Colorado State University Routt County Extension, where a lead-only water test is $26.
The district was anticipating a need for the planned upgrades as the EPA is proposing more strict regulation of lead levels in water, Alfone said. Currently, the lead action level is 0.015 milligrams per liter, but that is anticipated to be lowered to 0.010 milligrams per liter in 2024.
“We knew this was potentially coming, so we have been working on this well before even that first exceedance in 2020,” Alfone said.
Notification letters about the current lead level exceedance were mailed or emailed to customers the week of Feb. 20, and an advertisement with the letter text ran in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Feb. 25. The letter is posted on the Mount Werner Water website homepage under the Corrosion Control Treatment Technique Improvements section.
Michelle Carr with the City of Steamboat Springs water department said the city tests water in 40 single-family homes two times a year and submits the results to the state. Although some individual homes have tested too high for lead levels, that percentage of homes has not risen to the level of an official exceedance, Carr said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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