A groundbreaking study commissioned by a MI municipal, the Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL), recommends flushing times for lead water services beyond EPA guidelines. The new study advises flushing lead water services seven minutes for water that has been idle in pipes six hours or more. For customers with standard copper water services, flushing time remains the same. Flush until the water runs cold or up to two minutes.
Things you should know about lead in drinking water
Health effects of lead
Lead is a common, naturally occurring metal that is found throughout the environment in lead-based paint as well as in air, soil, household dust, and, sometimes, water. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won't hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies. Most health officials agree the greatest danger from lead exposure comes from old lead-based paint, but drinking water can also be a source.
Lead in drinking water
There's no detectable lead in WMS drinking water when it leaves our water filtering plant. But water is naturally corrosive and can pick up microscopic amounts of lead if it sits idle for extended periods of time in pipes, plumbing or fixtures that contain lead. Lead levels in drinking water are likely to be highest:
In homes with lead service lines connecting the water main to the house.
In homes with lead indoor plumbing, or in homes that have copper plumbing joined by lead solder.
In homes that have brass faucets or other fixtures.
Reducing water's corrosiveness
Lead gets into drinking water when the water sits for extended periods of time in pipes or fixtures containing lead. This exposure could come from lead service lines. But it could also come from water contact with interior copper plumbing joined by lead solder, or with brass plumbing fixtures in your interior plumbing. Even brass fixtures certified as "lead-free" can contain up to 8 percent lead.
Things you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water
Despite our best efforts, lead levels in some homes and businesses served by WMS may be elevated. Fortunately, there are steps you can take on your own to reduce these levels.
Flush your pipes before drinking. Anytime the water in a particular faucet has not been used for 6 hours or longer, flush your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take as little as 5 to 30 seconds if there has been recent heavy water use such as showering or toilet flushing. Otherwise, it could take 2 minutes or longer. The more time water has been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain.
Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.
Regularly clean particles from faucet aerators.
Buy a lead-free faucet. The legal definition of "lead-free" still allows brass faucets to contain up to 8 percent lead. However, faucets marked with "NSF 61/9" and/or "California Proposition 65" meet stricter limits.
If you're concerned about lead, have the water tested. Arrangements can be made for water testing by DEQ Laboratory at 517.335.8184, Paragon Laboratories Inc. at 734.462.3900, or call Wyandotte Water at 734.324.7142 and we can make the arrangements. Or, you may choose to install a water filter that is NSF-certified for lead removal. If a water filter is installed, replace filters at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
In addition, in homes with known or suspected lead service lines:
If the water in your home has not been used for 6 hours or more, draw water for cooking or drinking after allowing the water to run for 7 minutes or for at least 2 minutes after another high water use activity such as bathing or washing clothes.
As an alternative, use filtered water for drinking or cooking.
Replacing lead service lines
WMS is committed to removing all known or suspected lead service lines from its water system. Service line replacements are scheduled as time and budget permits.
EPA's lead regulation
The EPA sets upper limits or maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for most substances it regulates in a utility's drinking water system. These MCLs are set at levels designed to protect the health of customers. For most contaminants, testing takes place at the utility's water filter plant or in its distribution system. Lead is different, because it's not commonly found in a water utility's source water or its distribution system. Usually, lead dissolves into drinking water after the water has entered the customer's property. For lead, EPA has set an action level designed to measure a utility's effectiveness in controlling the corrosiveness of drinking water so that lead doesn't easily dissolve into it. That makes it different from maximum contaminant levels, which are based on protecting human health.
For lead, EPA requires that samples be taken from faucets inside the homes of a certain number of customers. These tests must be taken in homes likely to have the highest concentration of lead. That includes houses with lead service lines and houses with copper plumbing built just before lead-based solder was outlawed in the late 1980s. EPA's action level for lead is 15 parts per billion at the 90th percentile. That means 90 percent of the homes sampled for lead have to have a lead concentration of 15 parts per billion or less. Utilities that exceed the action level need to do more to reduce the corrosiveness of their drinking water, increase their public information campaign, and begin removing lead service lines if they have any.
We're doing all three of those things, even though WMS remains under EPA's action level for lead.
Our commitment to our customers
WMS has always been in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's lead regulation. We are in compliance today with that regulation. WMS is committed to continuing this level of service.