Questions and Answers Regarding Lead Piping
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
The most recent samples of residential tap water conducted by the Green Bay Water Utility ("GBWU") between June and September 2011 exceeded the maximum concentrations in State and Federal regulations. These maximum concentrations are known as "Action Levels."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ABOVE THE "ACTION LEVEL"?
More than 10 percent of the samples contained lead above the fifteen parts per billion level. Being above the "Action Level" does not signal a violation but adds additional requirements that include water quality parameter monitoring, corrosion control treatment, source water monitoring/treatment, public education, and lead service line replacement.
HOW DOES LEAD GET INTO THE WATER?
Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect your house to the water main.
WHO DOES THIS AFFECT?
None of the water mains in the GBWU system are made of lead. The only lead piping is in the water "lateral" pipes that run from the main water line in the street into a house, as well as the piping in the house. Generally, lead pipes were being phased out and were actually banned in September 1984. Accordingly, this affects only older homes. GBWU estimates that to be approximately 2,600 out of 35,000 homes served in Green Bay. GBWU last installed lead laterals in 1944.
WHAT ARE THE HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH LEAD IN WATER?
Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. Lead exposure may also cause slight increases in the blood pressure of some adults. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM CONCERNED ABOUT LEAD IN MY WATER?
· If a tap is unused for a period of 6 hours or longer, let the water from the tap flow until the water gets noticeably colder, usually about 15-30 seconds. If your house has a lead service line to the water main, you may have to run the water for a longer time, perhaps one minute, before drinking.
· Try not to cook with water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve more lead and can also do it more quickly than cold water.
· Remove loose lead solder and debris from the plumbing materials installed in newly‑constructed homes, or homes in which the plumbing has recently been replaced, by removing the faucet strainers from all taps and running the water from 3 to 5 minutes. Thereafter, periodically remove the strainers and flush out any debris that has accumulated over time.
· If you have copper pipes joined with lead solder that has been installed illegally since it was banned in September of 1984, notify the plumber who did the work and request that he or she replace the lead solder with lead-free solder. Lead solder looks dull gray and when scratched with a key looks shiny.
· The Water Utility has records indicating which laterals are lead on the Utility side of the service line. A licensed plumber can inspect the line to determine if your home plumbing contains lead solder, lead pipes, or pipe fittings that contain lead.
· Have an electrician check your wiring. If grounding wires from the electrical system are attached to your pipes, corrosion may be greater.
WHAT IS THE UTILITY DOING TO ELIMINATE THIS ISSUE?
The Utility has been testing our water for lead since the early 1970's.
· In the early 1990's, we modified our treatment process to reduce the corrosiveness of the water.
· We have been replacing lead lateral service lines as part of our annual replacement program.
· The Utility is currently undertaking a project to further reduce the corrosiveness of the water.
· GBWU must do additional testing before December 31, 2011 and submit a corrosion control treatment plan to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources by June 30, 2013.
WHO ELSE HAS EXPERIENCED THIS PROBLEM?
Many communities in Wisconsin and nationally have dealt with this issue. Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine are a few who have been required to deal with lead in the past and continue to do so. We have followed their experience and are preparing to address this issue in the most efficient and effective manner.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?
· The Green Bay Water Utility is happy to answer any questions that you may have. Our number is 920-448-3480.
· Mark Nelson is the Wisconsin DNR representative who specializes in lead issues. His number is 608-267-4260.
· Lead Public Education Program is the link to the Lead Public Education Program for Municipal Water Systems document.
· http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/index.cfm is the link to the EPA's document entitled "Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water."
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