WHY FLINT, MICHIGAN’S WATER WOES ARE NOT OURS
For many years, Flint, Michigan, purchased water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. In an effort to save money,
Flint decided to switch from being a water purchaser to a water producer, using the Flint River as its source. We do not have first-hand information about what occurred in Flint, but this much is clear: when the City switched its water supply source to the Flint River, it did not take the required steps to manage water chemistry. The new water caused lead to leach from lead service lines and home plumbing – lead that ended up in water coming out of the taps.
Those of us involved in managing, cleaning, and delivering water share a solemn obligation to protect public health. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH) is the regulatory agency for drinking water in our state, and they provide strong oversight to their partners, including the Regional Water Authority (RWA). The CTDPH would not allow us to switch any of the sources of water to a river as polluted as the Flint River. They make sure we are providing our consumers with the highest quality water possible.
The RWA takes its obligation to protect your health seriously. Here are some questions and answers that will help put you at ease. At the end of the page, there are links to several other sites that discuss lead in drinking water.
HOW CAN LEAD GET INTO MY DRINKING WATER?
The water that leaves the Regional Water Authority’s (RWA) water treatment plants and travels through water mains to homes or businesses has no lead in it. But as water sits in plumbing systems, small amounts of lead from lead pipes or lead solder used to join copper pipes can dissolve into the water.
IS MY HOME AT RISK OF HAVING LEAD IN THE WATER?
In 1991, the RWA replaced all known RWA-owned lead service lines in our system. The RWA owns the water service line from the water main in the street to the curb; the customer owns the water service line from the curb into their home.
The RWA’s experience is that the use of lead water service lines is associated with homes built prior to 1920, although we cannot rule out its use at later dates. Homes built before 1988, when the Lead Contamination Control Act went into effect, might contain lead in brass plumbing fixtures, or lead solder that was used to connect copper pipes. Homes built in or after 1988 are far less likely to have plumbing fixtures or solder that contain lead.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE LEAD PLUMBING OR LEAD SERVICE LINES?
Lead plumbing pipes are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. If you carefully scratch a pipe with a key or coin, the scratched area on a lead pipe will turn a bright silver color. To avoid putting a hole in the pipe, do not use a knife or other sharp instrument to scratch the pipe. Galvanized piping can also be dull gray in color. A strong magnet will typically cling to galvanized pipes, but will not cling to lead pipes.
In some homes, copper or galvanized pipes were connected using lead solder. These connections have a characteristic solder bulb or bubble.
Discovering if the portion of the water service line you own is lead is more difficult. You cannot taste, smell, or see lead in water. If you cannot access a service line to determine whether it contains lead, the only way to tell if there is a lead service line is to have the water tested by a certified laboratory. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH) has a list of certified laboratories, including the Regional Water Authority’s lab, on its website.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE A LEAD SERVICE LINE?
If you find you have a lead service line, contact the Regional Water Authority (203-562-4020). We will work with you to replace the line at the cost of materials and labor. If you don’t want to replace the lead service line, we will monitor lead levels in your home for up to six months and show you simple things you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in tap water.
IS MONITORING LEAD FOR SIX MONTHS ENOUGH?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires water producers to adjust the water chemistry during the treatment process to prevent lead and copper from leaching into drinking water from the tap. During the treatment process, the RWA adds chemicals that create a protective coating inside service lines and household plumbing to stop lead or copper from leaching into tap water. That coating protects the pipe. Typically, the amount of lead in water, even with lead service lines or lead solder, doesn’t change over time unless something disrupts the coating in the pipes. When we see spikes in lead at a customer’s home, it usually is because the customer changed a plumbing fixture.
WHAT THE RWA DOES
To prevent lead from leaching into drinking water, the RWA:
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are several steps you can take to address potential risks from lead in water.
LEAD TESTING DATA
The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requires monitoring at consumer taps to identify levels of lead in drinking water that may be a result of corrosion of lead-bearing components in a public water system’s distribution system or household plumbing. These samples help assess the need for, or the effectiveness of, corrosion control treatment.
The Regional Water Authority (RWA) was required to identify and sample water from high risk homes, those that include one or more of the following:
Based on the test results since the start of the program in the early 1990s, the compliance program requires the RWA to monitor 50 sites. We have consistently monitored more than the required number of sites. The results of the last two rounds of sampling show that the levels of lead in water are consistently below the Environmental Protection Agency’s Action Level of 0.015 milligrams per liter.
An Action Level is the concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements that a water system must follow. It is not a health-based goal.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Connecticut Department of Public Health – Lead Fact Sheet
Connecticut Department of Public Health – Certified Laboratories
Environmental Protection Agency - Safe Drinking Water Hotline
Safe Drinking Water Hotline Phone: 1-800-426-4791
American Water Works Association - Drink Tap
American Association of Pediatrics - Lead in Tap Water Fact Sheet