Is the water from our faucet safe to drink? Maybe. It depends on your public water systems—and how closely they adhere to drinking water quality standards and regulations. Look no further than Flint, Mich., which had a water crisis on its hands back in 2014 after the drinking water was contaminated with lead.
The biggest concern of drinking water with too much lead is that it can cause us to be vulnerable to serious health effects and disorders. In fact, we’ve all probably seen the 1993 movie inspired by Erin Brockovich—played by actress Julia Roberts—that highlights the water crisis in Hinckley, Calif. Water is just a critical issue. Some report crises in California is still not fully resolved some three decades later.
Another factor to consider is the lead is rarely in drinking water when it leaves the treatment plant—but it can seep into water from old plumbing along the way. And we all know how modern our infrastructure is (it isn’t). In fact, it is estimated six to 12 million lead pipes carry drinking water to millions of people in the United States.
The good news is the government is taking steps to expedite the removal of lead in drinking water across the United States. As part of the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership, more than 100 organizations have come together to create a plan to replace 100% of the nation’s lead service lines in 10 years. The group will meet several times each year to identify new opportunities and measures to take.
Last year, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) unveiled its Lead and Copper Rule Revision, which mandates all U.S. water systems to create lead service line inventories by October 2024. Predictive modeling can help. Case in point: BlueConduit, which is included in the EPA’s Service Line Inventory Guidance. The company uses analytics and machine learning to predict the location of lead pipes and is working with towns to help meet their inventory deadline.
In fact, BlueConduit began doing lead pipe predictions in 2016 in Flint, Mich., and since then its technology has been used in more than 100 communities in the United States and Canada.
For those homeowners who are waiting for that plan to create 100% of the nation’s lead service lines in the next 10 years, there are some things we can do right now to help.
For one, be aware older homes are more likely to have lead pipes—particularly those built before 1986. The federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes, and other plumbing materials to 8%.
The South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control has a few other tips. For example, flushing tap water is a way to protect your health. Simply let the cold water run from the tap for about 15-40 seconds before using it for drinking or cooking if the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. The longer water stays in the plumbing the more lead it may contain.
Another tip is to only use cold water for cooking and drinking because hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water. It recommends that if you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap and then heat it. Of course, another option is to get a filter for under your sink. Perhaps most importantly, remember, the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states there is no known level of lead exposure or lead in the human body that is safe for a child.
What are your thoughts? How do you consume and use water in your own home? Do you have any concerns about lead in your drinking water? Are you taking the proper precautions?
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