Lead in H2O Is Everywhere!

5 articles that seem to indicate a tip of an huge iceberg of a national infrastructure problem.

By Eugene Barufkin, Wisconsin Institute For Progressive Polities

This is truly a national problem - Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund and a professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said that lead in drinking water was a problem with immediate health consequences, especially for children, but that the recent revelations about contamination offered another ominous warning about the general state of the country’s infrastructure.

Newark & Camden NJ -

18 Cities In Pennsylvania, Including Pittsburgh, Have Higher Lead Exposure Than Flint

Where are the lead pipes? In many cities, we just don’t know
The lack of information raises questions about water quality reports issued by utilities. Federal rules require them to test water in places at high risk for lead contamination. But if testers don’t know where the lead pipes are, they can end up sampling lower-risk sites and potentially understating the lead levels.

“This is nuts,” said Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor of public health and medicine at Tufts University and a former chairman of an advisory board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water Committee. “Given what we know about lead, we need a national mapping in my view of what’s out there. … We just have giant holes when it comes to our understanding of how much lead is in the ground.”

In an age of digital technology, including GPS mapping, many communities including Detroit, Lincoln Park and Southfield still keep their water service connection records on manila-colored index cards, handwritten in pencil by installation crews decades ago.


- But Who Will Foot The Bill?

Before American cities can accelerate their lead-pipe replacement plans, as recommended by the EPA’s drinking-water council, they’ll need to answer one major question: Who will pay for all this work?

Most U.S. cities, according to Michael Deane, executive director of the National Association of Water Companies, have budgeted in terms of a “300-year replacement cycle to replace the pipes in the ground.” But the American Society of Civil Engineers say pipes reach the end of their useful lives in 95 years. In other words, cities’ budgets are woefully inadequate for replacement needs. The ASCE said some studies estimated an additional $1 trillion should be spent over a 25-year period for the most urgently needed pipe replacements—lead and otherwise.

Water utilities serving American cities use tests that downplay contamination
Guardian analysis reveals millions of customers were asked to used testing method condemned by the EPA which may flush out detectable lead content - - -
In the tests, utilities ask customers who sample their home’s water for lead to remove the faucet’s aerator screen and to flush lines hours before tests, potentially flushing out detectable lead contamination. The distorted tests, condemned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have taken place in cities including Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. The improper screening could decrease the chance of detecting potentially dangerous levels of lead in water, the EPA has said.

The analysis comes on the heels of an EPA letter, which repeated earlier warnings to utilities not to use such methods.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on March 12, 2016

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