Dillon adds $30K water treatment to reduce lead exposure in older buildings | SummitDaily.com

Dillon adds $30K water treatment to reduce lead exposure in older buildings

Alli Langley


The town of Dillon discovered through regular, federally mandated testing that the water in some homes built before 1986 may contain lead in excess of Environmental Protection Agency standards because of older pipes and plumbing fixtures.

The town invested roughly $30,000 on a new treatment system to address the lead concentrations by raising the pH level of water delivered to homes.

Residents may also take these additional steps to further reduce lead exposure.

Replace old plumbing fixtures made out of bronze or brass, which are alloys and can contain high levels of lead

Be wary of products advertised as “lead free,” as they can still contain up to 8 percent lead

Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before use, especially if water has not been running for several hours

Use cold water for preparing food; lead dissolves more easily into hot water and boiling does not remove lead

Source: The U.S. Envirnonmental Protection Agency

After about five months of delays, the town of Dillon recently installed a new water treatment system to address concerns about high lead concentrations in the water of some older homes, businesses and other buildings.

Public works director Scott O’Brien said the process was slowed by supplier delays and initial problems with connecting the digital control system.

The new $30,000 system came online in mid-February and is raising the pH of the town’s water to reduce the amount of lead that can leech from older pipes and plumbing fixtures.

In a regular test conducted in December, the town recorded four of 20 samples taken from at-risk locations with lead levels higher than the recommendation set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The highest concentration found in December was 0.034 milligrams per liter; the EPA’s target is 0.015.

As required, town staff informed water customers about the lead situation by mail in February. They also went door to door at businesses explaining the issue to water users.

The town was alerted to the problem after 2013 testing discovered three problematic samples, including one at 0.092 milligrams of lead per liter.

Environmental factors have caused the pH of the town’s source water to lower slightly over the nearly 25 years that O’Brien has worked for the town, which has allowed lead in homes built before 1986 to leech in higher concentrations in recent years, he said.

O’Brien said the new system will increase the pH of the town’s water to 8 from its current winter level of 7.6. That should eliminate the incidence of high lead levels before the next round of mandatory testing in June.

“This will solve the problem,” O’Brien said, and people won’t notice any differences in the taste, smell or feel of the water.

He emphasized that high lead concentrations are not present in the town’s source water or the water it delivers to homes and businesses.

“These are just a few homes in our town of many homes,” he said. “It’s just those older homes.”

Older construction doesn’t automatically mean high lead exposure, however.

At town hall, for example, O’Brien said the building constructed in the early 1970s hasn’t recorded lead problems likely because the water is used so often it doesn’t have time to stagnate and allow problematic amounts of lead to leech.

High levels of lead exposure have been connected to kidney and brain damage and to birth defects. In 1986, at the urging of the EPA, Congress passed several amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 to reduce lead exposure.

The laws drastically reduced the presence of lead in plumbing and required local water departments to regularly test finished water supplies for lead.

Every six months, the Dillon Water Department tests 20 older, at-risk buildings for lead and has the samples analyzed by a third party in Denver. Per EPA regulations, O’Brien said, if two or fewer sites in the town exceed the target level, the town is not required to take action.

For more information about the health effects of lead and reducing lead exposure, visit http://www.epa.gov/lead.

Those with concerns about the water in their homes, businesses or properties should contact the town of Dillon’s Public Works Department at (970) 262-3426 to learn more about testing for lead.

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