Lead discovered in water of 12 Hampden homes

Posted Jan. 13, 2010, at 8:12 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — A recent random sampling of 40 homes in Hampden discovered that 12 of those residences had drinking water that exceeded Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for lead.

Michelle Gushue of the Hampden Water District said the town samples water every six months and has had an ongoing problem with lead over the past few years.

“The lead is solely from fixtures and piping in homes, not from the water itself,” she said. “System water tests have consistently come back negative.”

Based on EPA guidelines, if water comes back with lead levels higher than 46 parts per billion, it is considered elevated. Most often, elevated levels emerge from water that sits in tanks and pipes for extended periods of time. Lead often leaches from lead-based solder and some plumbing fixtures that are made with lead.

Homes that were constructed after 1986 should not contain any lead solder, based on state laws, but Gushue said it doesn’t mean newer homes are not at risk. The easiest way to combat any contamination is to run water for several seconds before drinking it, she said.

The Hampden Water District is in the midst of developing a corrosion control program that adds chemicals to water to help coat pipes so that lead will not leach.

Lead poses several health threats, including damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. Children and pregnant women are at the highest risk.

More information about potential risks is available through the Hampden Water District at 862-3490 or by calling the state of Maine’s Drinking Water Program at 287-2070.

Gushue said homeowners can test their water if they have concerns about lead levels. Tests are available for approximately $30 through Northeast Laboratory Services of Waterville at 873-7711 or through the state’s Health Engineering Lab in Augusta at 287-2727.

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