High levels of lead were found during water sampling at four Tacoma homes
The Tacoma News Tribune (TNT) ran an article on 4/21/2016 about four homes in Tacoma that tested high for lead. Puyallup Public Works Director Rob Andreotti was contacted and interviewed by the TNT. The following information was provided:
• The City bought the water system from Puyallup Water and Light in 1906
• We are unaware of any lead goose neck service connections in our system
• We do have galvanized service connections.
• The City follows federal guidelines that require us to test 30 homes (we test 33) which were selected using their criteria every three years.
• The last tests were done in 2013 with the worst sample being 10 ppb, the limit is 15 ppb, and the majority were far less.
• Our next sampling cycle is scheduled for June of 2016 and we don’t have plans to change that in light of what Tacoma has found.
The homes that tested high for lead in Tacoma were constructed in the early 1900s, when industry standards allowed for the use of lead pipe. Modern building standards now require the use of lead free pipe and fittings throughout our distribution system.
Customers can get their water tested on their own.
There are two state-certified labs in Tacoma that accept samples from the general public and are certified to run drinking water samples for lead.
Water Management Laboratories
1515 80th St E. , Tacoma, WA 98404
Spectra Analytical Inc. at (253-272-4850)
2221 Ross Way Tacoma, Wa 98421
Craig R Hale
City of Puyallup
Keeping Lead Out of the Water
Q: How does lead get into people’s drinking water?
A: Lead in drinking water does not typically come from the water source. Lead in drinking water usually comes from the corrosion of lead-containing plumbing or fixtures, or the solder that connects copper pipes. Lead-based solder was banned in 1986, but small amounts of lead can still be found in many brass plumbing fixtures and can slowly dissolve into water after standing in pipes for a long time.
Q: How do high levels of lead in the water affect people?
A: Studies cited by the Environmental Protection Agency show that exposure to lead can cause health problems, especially in pregnant women and young children. Children are at highest risk of lead exposure from soil, as well as from dust and paint in older homes. The risk is highest in homes constructed before lead-based paint was banned in 1978, and risk increases with the age of the house as a result of deteriorating paint and paint chips. While drinking water isn’t usually a significant source of lead for children, it can contribute to total exposure, and its control is important.
Q: What went wrong with the water in Flint, Michigan in 2014 and 2015?
A: To start, Flint’s water system has many service connections that are made entirely out of lead, which is common among water systems in the eastern U.S. Service connections are the pipes that connect homes to the distribution mains of the water system. Flint changed water sources in 2014, moving from a Detroit regional water system that provided fully treated water from Lake Huron to a local water supply from the Flint River. The chemistry in the water from the Flint River was much more corrosive than the treated Lake Huron water from Detroit. Without appropriate corrosion control treatment, the water quickly began to dissolve metals such as iron and lead from pipes and fixtures into the drinking water. As a result, the quality of the drinking water provided to customers was significantly impacted. In some cases, lead concentrations were found to be many times higher than drinking water regulations allow.
Q: How does Puyallup Water help prevent lead from getting into people’s drinking water?
A: Springs and wells are the primary source of water for the City of Puyallup. Our average PH is 7.1 to 7.2 . Water with a PH in this range is considered to be less corrosive, therefore less lead dissolves into the drinking water. Our construction standards require the use of lead free plumbing.
Q: What is Puyallup Water’s process for testing for lead and who sets the rules for that?
A: The federal Lead and Copper Rule, which was developed by the EPA and is implemented by the Washington State Department of Health, prescribes the minimum number of samples, how sample sites are selected, the process for collecting lead samples in customers’ homes, and what the levels must be below. Puyallup Water currently collects a minimum of 30 samples every three years. Sample sites are selected based on what are believed to be the most likely, worst-case sample sites for lead exposure.
The federally acceptable limit of lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb) in no more than 10% of collected samples. If more than 10% of samples are above that Lead Action Level, this would trigger the water system to improve its corrosion control treatment and increase the amount of monitoring required. The water system would also have to provide additional information to its customers.
Q: When did Puyallup Water start testing for lead and why?
A: Puyallup Water began collecting lead samples as required by the Lead and Copper Rule in June of 1992. Through 2013, Puyallup has taken approximately 250 lead and copper samples.
Q: How does Puyallup Water report lead findings to customers?
A: The summarized results of the most recent round of lead sampling is including in the annual Water Quality Report (also called a Consumer Confidence Report) that is mailed to all customers each year.
Q: Who regulates our water supply?
A: Puyallup Water and all other public water systems in Washington are regulated by the EPA at the federal level and the Washington State Department of Health at the state level. Rules and regulations for public water systems like Puyallup primarily come from the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as any additional, more stringent standards set by the Washington State Department of Health.
Q: Are those regulations protective enough?
A: Concerns have been raised in different parts of the country with the required sampling methods used to identify lead in household plumbing, and the fact that up to 10% of the samples collected can be higher than the identified “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb). While the rule is intended to target sampling at the worst-case potential houses, and under worst-case conditions, researchers have shown that the prescribed methods don’t always achieve that goal.
That is particularly the case in water systems where service lines connecting the home to the water system are made entirely of lead. We are not aware of any of these types of service lines in the Puyallup system. As we sample again in the summer of 2016, if there are any homes that show lead levels over the 15 ppb action level, we will request to work with those homeowners to try and determine the source, and we will continue to communicate with all customers about the risks of lead, what we are doing to reduce that risk, and what customers can do to help reduce their own risk of exposure.
Q: Who oversees trends in our area’s public health or has access to track lead levels in children in our area? What are they reporting?
A: In Washington, there is no comprehensive, universal requirement for blood lead level monitoring. Blood lead level monitoring that does occur is targeted at those with risk factors for exposure.
Blood lead levels are a reportable result that must be provided by all laboratories to the appropriate state agency that tracks the results. The Washington State Department of Health maintains a registry of blood lead levels for children under the age of 15, and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries maintains a similar registry for adults.
The current standard for “blood lead level of concern” for children is those with results greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter. Samples above that level of concern will trigger a follow-up investigation. In Pierce County, the follow up is done by staff from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The data that is collected from blood lead level samples in Washington often does not include addresses of patients, so it is not currently possible to use this data to evaluate trends within a water system’s service area that might be related to drinking water exposure.
Q: Are there inherent differences between Flint’s water supply and Puyallup’s water supply?
A: The water that Flint was using from the Flint River was different in a number of ways from the water Puyallup uses from our groundwater sources. The Flint River runs through a heavy industrial area in Flint, while Puyallup takes its water from aquifers in protected watersheds. The water chemistry is also quite different. With high levels of chlorides, the Flint River supply was found to be quite corrosive to metal pipes and fixtures. Flint, like many systems on the East Coast, also has cases where the pipes that connect houses to the water system are made out of lead.
The most critical difference between Flint and Puyallup was the fact that Flint was not using effective corrosion control treatment for the water from the Flint River. That lack of corrosion control treatment resulted in significant impacts to Flint’s water quality and the increase in lead being absorbed into the drinking water.
Puyallup Water has been operating sources in the same aquifers for 126 years without exceeding any lead levels.
Q: If I’m concerned about lead in my water, what can I do?
A: While Puyallup has a long record of complying with lead level requirements, and the vast majority of results for lead are low, they are not zero. Flushing fixtures in your home prior to using them is one of the easiest and most effective ways to further reduce the risk of exposure to lead in water. Generally, water must sit in contact with plumbing materials and fixtures for a few hours in order for small amounts of lead to enter the drinking water. Running water between 30 seconds and two minutes after it sits stagnant in the pipe will reduce any amount of lead that may be present in your water. A change in the temperature of water indicates when fresh water arrives.
It is also recommended to use water from the cold water tap for drinking and food preparation, because warm water can be more corrosive than cold. Cleaning out faucet aerators is a good idea to ensure that any old lead solder debris does not collect there.
Q: What homes are at high risk of having lead contamination through the pipes?
A: Homes that were constructed prior to 1986 with copper plumbing and lead solder, or homes that contain any lead piping, are considered the highest risk. Although use of lead as a plumbing material did occur in some parts of the United States through the early 1900s, to Puyallup Water’s knowledge, little or if any lead pipe was used in the Puyallup area.
If you choose to test your plumbing for lead we have listed a few local drinking water laboratories that are certified by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
• Spectra Analytical Inc
2221 Ross Way, Tacoma, WA 98421
• Water Management Laboratories
1515 80th St. E., Tacoma, WA 98404
Public Notice: Water Main Replacement Project
300 block of 15th Street Place NW
On March 21st you will notice an increase in construction activity on 15th Street Place NW. The water main on this street is 45 years old, is nearing the end of its useful service life, and has become unreliable. The City of Puyallup Water Division, as part of its preventive maintenance program, will be replacing the existing 2 inch galvanized iron pipe with a new 4 inch ductile iron pipe. Ductile iron pipe has a life expectancy of 100 years.
This project will start on 4th Ave NW and continue south on 15th Street Place to the end of the cul-de-sac. At the end of the project, we will abandon the existing water main.
The City understands that construction is difficult for the people that have to live through it, so we will try to keep the inconvenience to a minimum. You will be notified 24 hours in advance of any necessary water shut downs, except for emergencies. The City will try to maintain access to your driveways, and will give you warning when access must be blocked.
This cul-de-sac is scheduled for water main replacement, storm water improvements, and new pervious asphalt paving. It is the City’s goal to complete the water main replacement portion of the project by April 29th. Storm water improvements and paving will be scheduled shortly after that, weather permitting. Traffic and parking will be restricted for the duration of the project.
If you have any questions please contact:
Craig Hale – Water Supervisor 841-5503
Perry Baird – Water Lead Person 841-5512
Brian Johnson – Water Specialist 841-5442
Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
Craig R Hale
Public Notice: Conservation Message
On July 27th, the Cities of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett put out a joint press release initiating their “Water Shortage Response Plan”. Stage 1 of this plan advised their water customers to carefully manage their water use. On August 11th, they issued another press release announcing stage 2 of their plan, asking their customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 percent. The final 2 stages of the plan are “Mandatory Conservation” and “Emergency Water Restrictions”. The City of Puyallup is a wholesale customer of the City of Tacoma but they supply less than 1% of our total annual water supply.
These Cities are supplied with surface water and are therefore impacted more during hot dry weather than groundwater systems like the City of Puyallup are. Although we always encourage our customers to use water wisely, there are no water restrictions in effect for the City of Puyallup for the foreseeable future. Rest assured, we are monitoring our aquifers and will initiate our “Water Shortage Response Plan” if levels were to significantly change. We have developed a robust water system, so unlike other systems in our area, even during peak demands we have substantial reserves.
Craig R. Hale
HOW TO USE WATER WISELY
Guidelines for being water wise:
Water use can more than double during the summer due to lawn and garden watering. One inch of water per week, including rainfall, is recommended.
If you have an automated sprinkler system, use a rain gauge to prevent over watering. Reduce evaporation by watering early in the morning or in the evening.
Use your water meter to detect leaks. Simply shut off all taps and appliances that use water. Read your meter, and then check the meter after 15 minutes. If it moves, you have a leak. A small drip can waste 20 or more gallons of water per day. Fix it and you’ll save over 7,000 gallons per year.
Check your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Watch for a few minutes to see if the color shows up in the bowl. It is not uncommon to lose up to 100 gallons a day from invisible toilet leaks. Fix it and you will save more than 30,000 gallons a year. Remember, a toilet is not wastebasket.
Automatic dish washers use 15 gallons for every cycle, regardless of how many dishes are loaded. Wait until you have a full load and you will save money.
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and shaving.
- Install water-efficient shower heads and take shorter showers.