TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma Public Utilities and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department are teaming up to respond to community concerns related to the recent discovery of elevated lead levels in water samples from pipes outside four customers’ homes.
The utility will work closely with its local public health partners to establish joint goals and objectives and ensure the public has clear information. A combined planning and response strategy developed late last week will strengthen efforts already underway to address any public health concerns regarding possible water quality issues.
The state Department of Health regulates Tacoma Water and will have a technical support role in the combined planning and response effort, including providing guidance on water sampling strategies and protocols.
“Our public benefits from clear, consistent and reliable information when it comes to a possible threat to our local water quality,” said Bill Gaines, director of Tacoma Public Utilities. “We value the support of our public health partners, and our combined planning efforts will help us better serve and communicate with our customers.”
Tacoma Water sent letters April 22 to the 1,700 homes and businesses that may have lead goosenecks—short pieces of pipe connected to the water main. Goosenecks may have contributed to the higher lead levels found in pipes leading to four houses. Aging pipes in structures built up to the early 1940s are the primary source of concern. Over the past 30 years, Tacoma Public Utilities has replaced about 30,000 lead goosenecks and galvanized steel pipes that connect meters to the water main.
Tacoma Water will provide more information to people who received the letters about plans for water quality testing, which the utility will pay for, when they are available. People who live in these older homes should run their taps for at least two minutes before drinking or preparing food with the water.
Water not a typical source of lead exposure in the state
Lead-based paint, dust and contaminated soil are usually the most significant sources of lead exposure. In the area of the Tacoma Smelter Plume, lead contamination of the soil is a health concern. Residents should learn more about the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Dirt Alert program to find out if they should have their yard tested for lead. (www.tpchd.org/dirtalert).
Water is not a major source of lead exposure in our state, but older plumbing fixtures can be a source of possible contamination.
“Around the state, public health understands that it will take time to find and replace aging pipes that could be a source of lead contamination,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, director, Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. “The utilities and public health system are working together to minimize the risk of lead exposure.”
While Tacoma Water is narrowing its focus on the impacted customers, public health is responding to concerns the initial testing results raise for water users all over the county, and beyond. The combined response effort will also allow for information sharing with surrounding water systems.
“The local health department regulates smaller public water systems in Pierce County, and we are actively engaged with them to gain a better understanding of their water and potential health risks from lead,” said Chen.
Additional sampling at four Tacoma homes shows low lead results
Additional sampling taken inside four customers’ homes to better understand the current risk of lead exposure shows results that are much lower than samples taken from pipes outside the homes in early April. The original test results from outside pipes showed lead levels ranging from 100 to 400 parts per billion.
While these results are good news, there is still much work to do.
The water collected in the additional samples was not stagnant water; it represents the type of water coming from the tap with regular water use in the home. Tacoma Water’s next round of samples from the three houses will test for lead levels after water has been stagnant for at least 6 hours. We will release the results to the people in the homes we tested and to the public.
The next round of results will provide more useful information for the 30,000 customers whose lead goosenecks and service lines have been replaced in the last several decades.
We received results today from samples taken inside three homes on April 20. The results showed significantly lower lead levels – ranging from less than .05 to .38 parts per billion. (The fourth house was not retested because it’s unoccupied.)
|The federal action level of lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion.|
|NEW RESULT RANGE
(in parts per billion)
|ORIGINAL RESULT RANGE
(in parts per billion)
|House 1||Less than .05 to 0.38||1.39 to 395.00|
|House 2||Less than .05 to 0.21||0.65 to 97.9|
|House 3||Less than .05 to 0.062||0.61 to 96.6|
|House 4||No samples taken||0.18 to 126.00|
Prior to collecting these additional samples, the service lines, including the goosenecks, from the main to the meter were replaced.
As a common practice, all customers should flush their water after long periods without use. To flush pipes at home or at a business, people should:
- Run their cold water for at least two minutes. This is especially important if they have not used water for 6 hours. Taking a shower and watering the lawn count as flushing.
- Once the pipes have been cleared, run cold water for 15 seconds before drinking or cooking
Information about lead from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, drinking water is low on the list of sources of lead exposure.
The most common sources are lead-based paint, dust and contaminated soil. They all can contribute to a person’s overall lead exposure. In the area of the Tacoma Smelter Plume, lead contamination of the soil is a health concern. Residents should learn more about the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Dirt Alert program to find out if they should have their yard tested for lead. (www.tpchd.org/dirtalert).
Visit www.tpchd.org/lead for more information.Print This Post