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Since the case of lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, communities all over the country have been looking into their public water supply. While the utility company can sometimes be responsible for lead in water due to old water distribution lines that arrive to a building, other times it may be interior fixtures and other interior plumbing that cause elevated lead levels in drinking water. In these examples, those interior sources of lead are not the responsibility of the public water supply company.

The Flint water crisis of 2014 triggered an awareness of lead risks in many communities across the country and current news reports are surfacing about test results in schools and other public buildings. Most recently, in January of 2020, the Indianapolis Star reported that 159 out of 295 schools tested in Marion County, Indiana from 2016-2017 had elevated levels of lead detected in some water source. This includes water fountains, bathroom sinks, kitchen prep sinks, classroom labs, concession stands, and athletic facilities. In April of 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported that lead was found in tap water drawn from nearly 70% of 2,797 homes across Chicago and that tap water in three of every 10 homes had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion. The US Environmental Protection Agency has set its limit for lead in tap water at 15 parts per billion — but for bottled water, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, the limit is 5 parts per billion.

The silver lining in this news is that much of the lead in water detected in buildings is the result of interior plumbing and fixtures, not the result of lead-tainted water coming from the public water supply. A good sampling plan can help identify where elevated lead is being introduced inside a building, allowing for isolated repairs and replacements to occur without significant impact to the overall plumbing system (and budget!).

This presentation will provide the audience with an understanding of how lead gets into our drinking water, lead exposure health concerns, how testing for lead in water should be performed, and what corrective actions can be taken to reduce lead in water exposure when a lead hazard exits.