Lead Found In Thousands Of America’s Water Systems, A Nation Facing A Crisis

America may be entering into a crisis as more and more of our water systems contain a high level of lead. According to PRI, over 2,000 of America’s water systems in all 50 states are contaminated with lead, which poses a health risk to the people who drink it, wash dishes or even use it to bathe and/or shower in.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) supplies water to at least 6 million people and around 350 of those systems that supply water go to schools and daycare facilities. The USA Today Network investigated the findings and they discovered “at least 180 of the water systems failed to notify consumers about the high lead levels as federal rules require.”

The residents in Flint, Michigan, got a wake-up call when they discovered their tap water was laced with lead. It has been labeled as “unsafe to drink due to extremely high levels of lead caused by improper treatment of the city’s water system.” They are cautioned to refrain from using any of their tap water and only use bottled water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes and bathing.

The residents of Flint are given one case containing 24 bottles of water per day and the size of the household does not matter. Everyone receives the same amount.

Alison Young, one of the primary reporters for the USA Today Network investigations, said, “Lead is a very powerful neurotoxin. It harms developing brains of children. Studies have found that exposure to lead affects children’s IQ and their ability to learn in school. It’s associated with attention disorders and other problem behaviors. Pregnant women are at significant risk and studies indicate associations with high blood pressure, kidney problems and potential cardiac issues [in grown adults].”

In Massachusetts, the testing of their water systems over the last three years showed that they have exceeded the levels of lead at least once. In Pennsylvania, over 100 of the water systems tested in the last three years have exceeded the lead standard. At the Yellow Breeches Educational Center in Harrisburg, the water supply has been completely shut off. For years, the only water that comes into that school is bottled water. The water used to come from a well, but it exceeded 10 times over the safe amount of lead for the past two decades, so they shut the water off to keep their students and faculty safe.

ABC News reported that a federal law was passed in 1991 aimed at protecting the people from unsafe lead levels in their water. Every six months, the water systems were to be tested until they have safe lead levels and then they can qualify for a reduced sampling program.

“Systems that serve more than 50,000 customers can test annually as soon as two consecutive testing periods are below the level that requires federal action. Smaller systems that meet that standard can test every three years.”

The city tests the water in buildings with the highest risk of lead and the homeowners can volunteer a sample of their water as long as the water in the tap has not been used for six hours. The number of samples varies. It depends on how large the water system is and if it is on the program of reduced sampling.

To determine if a water system violates the levels of lead contamination, “a system is considered out of compliance if more than 10 percent of the sites sampled have lead levels above the federal-action level of 15 parts per billion.”

If a water system violates the lead levels, the water system has 60 days to notify their customers of the problem.

Water that has been listed as having unsafe levels of lead in them should provide their customers a way to help protect themselves. Some suggestions may include, “running water for 30 seconds to flush lead, using cold water for cooking and making baby formula, and replacing lead-based plumbing fixtures and service lines. Buying water filters and bottled water also are options.”

Children are the most susceptible to lead poisoning and knowing that, it should be mandatory for all schools and daycares to have their water tested, but that is not the case. “Only schools and day care centers that operate their own water systems are required to test for lead. Public and private schools and day care facilities that rely on a municipal water system are not required to test, although some do in the interest of safety.”

Lynn Goldman, a former EPA official and dean of George Washington University’s school of public health, said, “This is just a case where we have a rule that’s not been adequately protective,” said. “The entire design of the regulation doesn’t tell you about your own water.”

The heaviest concentrations where lead contamination was found in the drinking water were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Terry Heckman is a board member of a group that represents water systems at the Arizona Water Quality Association. He said, “You would hope that the cities and the counties and the state and the federal government would be holding people’s feet to the fire when it comes to providing quality water to the consumer if there is an issue. That’s what the government is supposed to do, is look over the general welfare of the populace.”

They believe that most of the problems are caused by the plumbing in older homes. Unfortunately, the cost to replace all the water pipes would be too costly for many of the nation’s poorer citizens. They will be the ones to suffer the most from this crisis.

The amount of lead in the water leads to another question concerning the safety of bottled water. Are they testing the plants that sell the bottled water and if so, how often are the tests conducted? Bottled water has been known to contain chlorine and fluoride, two ingredients that many people do not want in their bodies because they are unsafe. Who can rightfully say that bottled water does not contain any lead or other harmful ingredients?

Are you concerned with the nation’s crisis of contaminated water and what steps are you taking to ensure that your drinking water does not contain lead or other harmful ingredients?

[Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Images]