What’s In The Tap Water?
By Rebecca K. Abma
When you turn on the faucet in your kitchen are you confident the water is safe to drink? Ridgewood Water’s latest Water Quality Report reveals close to 20% of water samples tested exceed lead safety limits set by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Due to the violation, the water company is undergoing a corrosion correction study aimed at reducing lead, other metals and minerals, which should improve overall water quality as well.
The annual report, released last week, shows lead levels in 11 of the 60 water samples tested in June 2012 exceeded 15 parts per billion (ppb), the federal action level for lead. The 90th percentile levels were 21.6 ppb, which is 6.6 ppb above the action level. The report notes that 1 ppb is “like one minute in 2,000 years or one penny in $10 million.” The previous samples, which were tested in 2009, revealed one out of 60 samples exceeded the limit.
An alert issued to all Ridgewood Water customers last October stated “trace amounts of lead have been found in RW’s source water (ground wells) and within the distribution center.” According to the NJDEP, these trace levels are minor and do not pose a public health threat or emergency.
“This appears to be a minor issue and nothing of any real consequence,” NJDEP Spokesman Larry Ragonese told Midland Park Press. “There is evidence that lead is leaching into the system from older pipes and not from contaminants in the water supply.”
RW Manager Frank J. Moritz explained the company routinely monitors water from wells, distribution points and homes within the system. The higher lead levels are caused by corroded pipes, either in homes or in the Ridgewood Water infrastructure and service lines.
Homes built prior to 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures or solder in the plumbing system. However, newer homes plumbing may also contain up to 8% of lead and still be considered "lead-free" under the legal definition. The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011, which goes into effect January 2014, reduces the legal limit for lead in plumbing to less than 0.25%
Cleaning The Water
“We are in the process of a pilot study for the installation of corrosion control equipment,” Moritz told Midland Park Press. The DEP approved the pilot study in April and the company has one year to show progress or apply for an extension.
The long-term project involves the limited application of corrosion control treatment using blended orthophosphate/polyphosphate at select wells, including Midland, Walso, Farview, Cedar Hill Wellfield, College, Weisch, Mountain, Eder, Meer, Andover, Lafayette and Wortendyke Wellfield.
Orthophosphate-based water additives are classified as corrosion inhibitors and react with dissolved metals in the water to form a thin metal-phosphate coating. They also react with metals on a pipe surface to form a microscopic film on the inner surface of pipes that are exposed to the treated water. Polyphosphate chemicals react with soluable metals, such as iron, manganese, calcium and magnesium, by sequestering the metals to maintain their solubility in water.
According to data from the Water Research Foundation, the treatment is expected to not only eliminate excess lead in the system, but also improving overall water quality.
Arsenic Levels Back Down
In 2011, Ridgewood Water Company exceeded state levels for arsenic, substance that occurs naturally in groundwater in our area. The company issued an alert, noting that it was not an emergency, however those with a severely compromised immune system, infants, pregnant women and elderly should consult their doctor for advice.
The arsenic found in samples from one of Ridgewood Water’s 51 wells had an average arsenic level of 5.75ppb. The New Jersey Standard is 5 ppb. The US Environmental Protection Agency arsenic standard for drinking water is 10 ppb, and according to Ridgewood Water officials, none of the samples from the well exceeded federal limits.
DEP officials told the Midland Park Press that arsenic levels are no longer elevated.
“It is not uncommon for naturally occurring elements, such as arsenic, to show up in water supplies. The levels found in Ridgewood are above standards, but not a danger or threat to water users,” Rangonese explained. “The company notified us as required and has been exploring reasons for the slightly elevated levels. “
Cause For Concern?
According to both the NJDEP and Ridgewood Water officials, the contaminants in the water are being monitored and do not constitute a public health threat.
Residents, however, are not convinced. An informal survey of Midland Park Press readers found the majority of residents will only drink the tap water if it is filtered, while many others report using bottled water only. One resident reported blood tests revealing toxic levels of heavy metals in her system following a lifetime of drinking local tap water. Others noted corrosion of home water heaters and plumbing fixtures as a personal deterrent for drinking the water.
To reduce the risk of lead in your home water system, the EPA recommends the following:
1. Run your water to flush out lead. If your water hasn’t been used for several hours, run water for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for consumptive purposes. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.
2. Use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula (consumptive purposes). Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula. You can continue to use hot water for cleaning purposes (e.g. showering, laundry, washing dishes).
3. Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
4. Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality.
5. Test your water for lead. If you are concerned, call the below listed NJ State Approved Laboratories to have your water tested for lead.
- Aqua Pro-Tech Laboratories – 973-227-0422
- AGRA Environmental and Laboratory Services – 973-989-0010
- Garden State Laboratory – 800-273-8901
6. Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
7. Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. New brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. The law currently allows end-use brass fixtures, such as faucets, with up to 8% lead to be labeled as “lead free.” Visit the National Sanitation Foundation web site at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.
Do you have concerns about the tap water in your home? Do you drink the water as is or use a filter? Tell us what you think in the comments.