Friday, August 10, 2007

Misleading on Lead?

A couple weeks ago we were presented a series of articles on the scourge of lead in our older neighborhoods -- lead poisoning to be exact -- a serious subject developed with a lot of useful information.

Today we read the headline "Water no longer major lead source in Utica.
According to Mohawk Valley Water Authority Executive Director Patrick Becher, water leaving the treatment center meets current federal standards.

"Lead levels are extremely low, not a threat" Becher said. "We don't want to scare people.
No, we don't want to scare people . . . but we don't want to mislead them either.

People don't get their water at the treatment plant -- they get it at their taps -- and the water has to pass through miles of pipes to get there.
"At issue for many Mohawk Valley homeowners are lead service lines that are still in place in older homes. Replacing the lines that connect a house's plumbing to the water authority's distribution network is a costly job.

"Lead service lines in some places also connect the main transmission lines to the curb station, which is under the water authority's jurisdiction, Becher said.

"Unless there is a break in those services, the water authority will not replace them with copper lines, he said. . . "
The Water Authority has addressed the lead problem by adding chemicals to reduce the corrosiveness of the water, to reduce the water's ability to leach lead out of pipes and service connections. Of course, this has had a noticeable adverse impact on water quality. Anyone living in Greater Utica for more than 30 years should remember the joy of bathing in soft water: that "squeeky clean" feeling, that shining hair. It didn't take much soap to get clean, and it didn't take much water to wash it away. Utica was reputed to have had some of the softest water in the country . . . but it came with the cost of lead leaching out of the pipes. It was probably worth giving up soft water's benefits to reduce the risk of lead poisoning. It was a price that we've already paid. But has it solved the problem?

No doubt the risks of lead from water have been reduced by the Water Authority's action. It's basic chemistry. But it is premature to say that water is no longer the major lead source in Utica.

We don't know the actual sources of lead in the people who have been poisoned. We need a study of those people to be able to conclude that. While lead paint in older homes has been painted as the culprit, can we conclude that kids munching on windowsills is more of a source than water that may have sat a few hours in lead service lines that was later used in baby formula? I don't believe we have the data to conclude that.

It would be irresponsible if the intent of today's headline was to take pressure off of the Water Authority for instituting a lead service line replacement program.

It would be a shame if today's headline lulled people into thinking that they no longer had to be concerned with lead in their water -- that they did not have to worry about replacing service lines -- that they did not have to run the water for several minutes each day before ingesting it.

1 comment:

The Angry Engraver said...

Why has lead suddenly become such an issue in Utica?? the special series and such. I figured all the housed with lead still in the either burned down or Mayor Hanna tore them down.