About a year after tests revealed elevated levels of lead in the town of Berthoud’s drinking water, another round of tests revealed similar results.
The town issued a notice to residents Wednesday that five of 40 samples recently tested for elevated lead levels. Town representatives did not immediately respond to a Coloradoan request for more information about the test results.
Berthoud’s drinking water system has struggled to meet the regulatory standard for lead in drinking water since at least 2014, records obtained by the Coloradoan show. In 2014, the water system had levels double the federal standard of 15 parts of lead per billion parts of water.
In 2015, another round of tests yielded the same result. The town’s water system serves about 5,400 people.
The 15 parts per billion value is a regulatory standard, not a public health standard. [ed. emphasis mine] Lead exposure can cause serious damage to the brain and kidneys and is especially dangerous for infants, young children and pregnant women…
Berthoud is far from the only Colorado community to struggle with elevated lead levels in its drinking water. Nineteen of Colorado’s 64 counties yielded at least one drinking water test result with 15 ppb or more of lead between 2012 and 2015. The water systems that met or exceeded the action level for lead during that time period serve about 295,000 people, or 5.5 percent of the state’s population.
Berthoud’s elevated lead levels likely originated from lead in plumbing fixtures, according to a town press release. Town leaders are working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a corrosion control treatment program to implement soon, the release said.
The town is also updating its material survey to ensure that drinking water samples are being taken at the sites with the highest risk — namely, homes built between 1982 and 1986, when plumbing often contained lead. The town is sending letters to about 260 homes that fit that criterion to see if they’d be interested in becoming part of the drinking water sampling pool.
Per state regulations, Berthoud must collect 40 drinking water samples every six months and submit them for testing.
Brass faucets, fittings and valves advertised as “lead-free” can contain up to 8 percent lead, the press release cautioned, advising Berthoud residents to opt for fixtures certified by the National Sanitation Foundation instead.
Get the lead out
The release from the town of Berthoud offers advice for residents worried about lead in their drinking water:
1. 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.
2. Always use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Never cook with or drink water from the hot water tap and don’t use it to make baby formula.
3. Boiling water won’t reduce lead.
4. Periodically remove and clean the faucet’s strainer or aerator. While it’s removed, run the water to remove debris.
5. Consider investing in a home water treatment device or alternative water source. When purchasing a water treatment device, make sure it is certified under Standard 53 by NSF International to remove lead. Contact NSF at 1-800-NSF-8010, or visit the Water Quality Association’s website at http://www.wqa.org.
6. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings and valves, including those advertised as “lead- free,” may leach lead into drinking water. The NSF website at http://www.nsf.org has more information on lead-containing plumbing fixtures. You should use only lead-certified contractors.
7. Have a licensed electrician check your wiring. If grounding wires from the 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. Don’t try to change the wiring yourself because improper grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
8. Parents should consult with a medical professional for advice about whether to have their child’s blood tested for lead.
Residents who want to be included in the town’s list of sampling sites can contact its water department at 970-532-2393. If your home isn’t a high-risk site but you would like to test your water, the town suggests these nearby labs:
240 South Main Street, Brighton, Colorado
4036 Youngfield Street, Wheat Ridge, Colorado