Recent news stories about the dangerous water in Flint, Michigan may have raised some questions for customers of Osceola Water Works. How does lead get into drinking water? What are the health effects of lead in drinking water? How safe is MY drinking water? We would like to provide some answers and ease any concerns.
What happened in Flint, Michigan?
The city of Flint used to get its water from Detroit, which draws its water directly from the Great Lakes. In an effort to save money, Flint opted to draw their water from the Flint River. While lead isn’t necessarily present in the river, itself, it leaches into the water as it flows through old pipes and water-service lines. When water is pulled from an inland source such as rivers, lakes and canals where the water doesn’t soak into the ground first, there is a much higher concentration of chloride ions making the water corrosive. These ions mainly derive from the breakdown of salt molecules present in runoff from winter road treatments in Flint, Michigan and other communities close to the Flint River. Water from Lake Huron, Detroit’s main source, just isn’t as corrosive.
How does lead get into drinking water?
Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. It enters a water source through the delivery system, generally older lead pipes and plumbing fixtures. When the water source is corrosive, like from the Flint River, it erodes the lead from aging pipes and the solder that used to be used to connect copper pipes. It can also seep into the water through brass faucets and valves. Homes that were built before 1930 stand a good chance of having lead plumbing pipes, and homes built before roughly 1988 may still have lead solder connecting pipes. Households that use private wells more than 20 years old could have leaded-brass pumps or other lead-based components.
What are the health effects from high lead concentrations in drinking water?
In the state of Iowa, blood testing for lead poisoning starts at 12 months old. Lead affects basically every system in the body and does even more damage to children and their small bodies and developing brains. Elevated lead levels can lead to:
- liver or kidney damage
- decreased bone and muscle growth
- poor muscle coordination
- damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and/or hearing
- speech and language problems
- developmental delay
- seizures and unconsciousness (in cases of extremely high lead levels)
Osceola Water Works is diligent in making sure your drinking water is clean and tastes good. Stringent screening processes are followed to ensure the water supplied to your home is safe, as well. Ongoing infrastructure improvements help locate and remove any aging water lines that could be a potential risk.
Osceola Water Works monitors the PH levels in the water and makes chemical adjustments as necessary to ensure the PH stays neutral,” said Brandon Patterson, Water Superintendent for Osceola. “This keeps the water from becoming corrosive, which in turn prevents deterioration of lead pipes in the water distribution system. In Flint, the water from the river was corrosive and they didn’t chemically adjust the PH before it reached the distribution system. This allowed the old pipes to leach dangerous levels of lead into the city’s water.
You can check the water quality of Osceola water by downloading the most recent Consumer Confidence Report from our website. While Osceola Water Works is required to test the distribution system every three years for lead and copper, contamination can enter your drinking water through the personal plumbing in your home. If you suspect an unsafe lead level in your water, you can contact our office to learn more about your service line or to find out where to have your water tested. Many home improvement stores also sell home testing kits that allow you to collect a sample on your own and send it to an authorized testing facility.