Denver Water warns about lead in water in older homes with outdated plumbing

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Denver Water wants to remind customers that if you live in an older home, you may have lead in your plumbing, which could affect the water coming out of your tap.

Every year, Denver Water collects more than 10,000 water samples, runs more than 50,000 water quality tests throughout its system, and mails a water quality report to customers to describe the overall quality of water from collection and storage to customers’ taps. Lead is not found in Denver’s source water (rivers and reservoirs), treated water or public water system.

In addition to testing throughout its public system, for the past 20 years Denver Water has conducted a testing program inside homes with lead plumbing. In the utility’s most recent testing, water samples from 60 homes were analyzed. Eight of those samples showed lead levels that were higher than the federal standard. All eight homes were built before 1920.

“The health and safety of all our customers is very important to us,” said Tom Roode, director of Operations & Maintenance for Denver Water. “We thoroughly test our water before and after treatment and as it flows through our pipes in the street, so we know lead is not present in the public water system. But, lead was used for years in paint, plumbing and other household products, and still exists in older homes and buildings. In our experience, the structures most likely to have lead plumbing issues were built in the mid-1950s or earlier.”

Customers who are concerned about their home plumbing should consider taking the following steps:

- Run your water to flush out lead. If it hasn’t been used for several hours, run the cold water tap until the temperature is noticeably colder. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.
– Always use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula.
– Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
– Consider investing in a water filtration system. Filters must meet NSF Standard 53, and they range from pitchers that cost as little as $20 to under-sink systems for $100 or more. More information can be found at www.nsf.org or by calling 1-800-NSF-8010.
– Have your household water tested by a state-certified laboratory. You can find a list of reputable, certified labs at www.coloradostatelab.us.
– Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may leach lead into drinking water. Use only lead-certified contractors for plumbing work.
– Have a licensed electrician check your wiring. If grounding wires from your electrical system are attached to your pipes, corrosion may be greater. Check with a licensed electrician or your local electric code to determine if your wiring can be grounded elsewhere.

“Because there were eight homes with elevated levels of lead among our sample group, we are required by Federal regulations to let all customers know about the issue,” said Roode. “In addition to notifications about lead plumbing that we send to customers each year in our water quality report, we want to use this opportunity to raise awareness in the community and provide our customers with information to take appropriate steps.”

Denver Water customers will receive a brochure in the mail, which contains the required notice as well as educational information, by the end of November. The brochure and additional information are available on Denver Water’s website, http://www.denverwater.org/lead.

Additional information on lead can be found at www.epa.gov/lead, www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead and in this fact sheet.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The lead concentrations measured in samples from 60 homes exceeded the federal drinking water standard of 15 parts per billion by as much as 3.8 times. The 13 percent of Denver homes that had high lead levels, up from 8 percent of homes in 2011, is the highest percentage logged in 12 years, according to Denver Water data provided to the Denver Post…

While sources of Denver water in the mountains traditionally have been safe, more than half of homes may have lead pipes — either inside the houses or connecting them to Denver Water mains. The lead can be disturbed if pipes are cut or corroding, which lets it leach into water that eventually flows from taps…

Denver Water teams tested household water between June and August. They collected water from 60 homes built between 1880 and 1989 that still have lead plumbing. Eight had lead in water exceeding the 15 ppb standard, which the EPA set as the lowest level that reasonably could be enforced. The tests showed concentrations of 17, 17, 18, 19, 23, 29, 31 and 57 ppb. These results came from homes built before 1920…

Denver Water officials say they don’t see this as a growing problem, despite data showing 13 percent of homes with lead plumbing are affected — the highest since 2000. They point out that calcium and other minerals occurring naturally in mountain source water can insulate lead pipes and prevent contact with water.

More Denver Water coverage here.

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