Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 10:48 AM
Three of the 20 water samples taken last year from homes in Waterworks District 5 of Wards 3 and 8 in Calcasieu Parish were found to have elevated levels of lead, prompting officials to notify the nearly 1,400 customers within the district.
Terry Frelot, who oversees operations within the district, said Thursday that 10 percent of the samples submitted by customers had lead levels above 15 parts per billion, one of the drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Public water suppliers must test water quality once every three years, and customers must be notified when higher-than-allowed lead levels are discovered.
Frelot said the district does not contribute additional lead to the water because when it leaves the groundwater wells, the pipes that carry it are made mostly from PVC and polyethylene. He said some older homes may have pipes that are made of lead or are copper with lead solder.
“What we need to drive home is that all these tests are coming from the citizens’ plumbing; it’s not coming from the water district,” he said. “The water is drinkable now.”
Frelot said the 90th percentile of the sample group is checked for lead levels that are above the EPA standards. In the case of District 5, he said the 18th, 19th and 20th samples collected had lead levels above 15 parts per billion.
Frelot said testing in the district now must take place twice a year and calls for collecting samples from the original 20 customers, plus 20 more. Once two six-month tests show lead levels below 15 parts per billion, the testing schedule will return to once every three years. The next testing is set for March or April.
The EPA instituted the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991, requiring all public water suppliers in the U.S. to test for lead and copper. Because of this, Frelot said, some homes built before 1991 may have lead pipes, putting them more at risk of having lead in their water. He said homeowners are responsible for changing any pipes that may contain lead.
“We’re beginning the process of conducting a desktop study to see what is the best way to treat the water to help the customers and stop the lead leaching inside their private plumbing,” he said. “There are treatment agents you can add to water before distribution that will line the pipe to seal off those pipes that have lead in them.”
The state in 2011 passed Act 362, prohibiting the sale of any lead products to be used to dispense water for human consumption.
To flush a water system, residents can run their faucet until it is consistently cold for 15-30 seconds before drinking or cooking with it.
For more information, call the water district at 439-5286 or the parish public works department at 721-3700.