Water District urges homeowners to be wary of lead

Posted Aug. 23, 2011, at 7:50 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Water District’s water quality manager is again urging certain customers to pay heed to possible lead contamination of their drinking water.

Elevated levels of lead in some homes’ and buildings’ drinking water — but not in Bangor’s Floods Pond water source — have been found in recent testing.

“We’ve been monitoring at-risk homes since 1992 and what’s new is we’ve seen higher levels in some homes since last fall,” said Dina Page, Bangor Water District’s water quality manager.

“The homes most at risk are ones with plumbing that was installed in 1982 through 1986.”

Page is urging at-risk customers — those with internal plumbing components that contain lead fittings or solder — to take precautions to reduce their exposure to lead by:

• Running the water from faucets for two to three minutes before using it for drinking.

• Using cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula.

• Testing children for lead exposure.

• Looking for alternative drinking water sources or water treatments.

• Replacing plumbing fixtures containing lead.

• Testing water for lead content.

Page added that boiling water does not remove lead from it.

“We are monitoring more frequently and looking at modifications we could make to our treatment center to help things,” Page said.

Page stressed that the renewed call for caution and testing is not applicable for most Bangor Water District customers.

“Yes, we have our test- and worst-case homes that we already know of and are monitoring, but we put this out there to everyone because there’s a chance there are some that have fallen through the cracks that we don’t know about,” said Page.

The Bangor Water District’s testing has been at homes with internal plumbing materials known to contain lead. Page said test results represent a “worst-case scenario” of water that has been in contact with household plumbing for six to 10 hours without use.

Before last year, testing indicated BWD’s water was sufficiently noncorrosive, meaning there was a low potential for causing lead to leach from plumbing components. Starting in 2010, tests indicated a higher level of lead in some homes and similar results were found earlier this year during follow-up tests.

Page said water quality has increased markedly over the last two decades, but efforts to further improve things continue.

“Only until we have 90 percent of our test homes at or below 15 parts per billions will we back off the monitoring program to 12 months from six,” Page said.

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body. It can damage the brain and kidneys and interfere with production of red blood cells.

Bangor Water District customers can find out more information about testing and reducing lead exposure by calling 947-4516 or going to www.bangorwater.org.

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