Could be a problem for houses built before 1986
Three homes in Crested Butte have tested positive for elevated levels of lead in the tap water. The results are specific to those homes. The town’s main water supply was also tested and no lead was found there.
Crested Butte public works director Rodney Due says he has “absolutely no concern” about the town’s water supply or drinking water because the town’s raw water supply, prior to treatment, recently tested “well below” the maximum contaminant level for lead.
Due said the town has been conducting regular tests for lead in the drinking water of 10 to 20 homes in Crested Butte every year since 1993. The tests were mandated after a national law prohibited lead use in plumbing in 1986. The twenty homes in Crested Butte fit a profile of possible lead contamination, initially requiring the town to test all 20 homes every year. Testing is now required for only ten of the homes every three years. Until this last test conducted in July, lead levels were always found to be within acceptable levels.
According to Due, the most likely cause of the elevated lead is the lead solder used in the plumbing, because that was the standard type of solder used in copper plumbing in homes built prior to 1986, when the lead solder was banned. All 10 homes tested in Crested Butte were built prior to 1989. The tests for lead levels are conducted on tap water that has not been run for at least six hours.
“In all these years, nothing ever showed up and now we have three,” said Due. “We don’t know why at this time. Like all pipes, they will corrode after awhile. So through all the years of water running through the pipes, eventually something is going to come off. Now, we have to start testing all 20 houses again. We’ll start it in October and do them all every six months.”
Crested Butte water systems manager David Jelinek said the town is now in the process of following state protocol. “We are following the guidelines and basically in the investigative process now,” he said. “We will have more information soon. We’ll be putting together a report for the state health department.”
Jelinek says making the water safe is pretty simple. Town officials are advising residents who may be concerned about elevated levels of lead in their drinking water to run their water for 15 to 30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature, to flush out lead before using the water for drinking or cooking.
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources, especially for pregnant women and children six years and younger. Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults.
The town plans to include educational information about lead in drinking water in town utility billing notices in the near future. Residents who would like more information about where they can have their water tested should contact David Jelinek at 349-0885.
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following steps to reduce exposure to lead in your water:
Run your water to flush out lead. Run water for 15 to 30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking, if it hasn’t been used for several hours. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.
Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula.
Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling will not reduce lead.
You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter.
Test your water for lead.
Get your child tested. Contact the health department or your healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead.