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SLWA working to lower lead levels in water

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
March 2, 2001
Southwest Lauderdale Water Association officials are working to lower the lead content level found during the sampling of one of its lines.
Southwest officials published a notice in Monday's edition of The Star, announcing the water system "exceeded the 90th percentile for lead" during a January-to-December 2000 monitoring period.
Terry Boyette, association manager, said the public notice was required by the Mississippi Department of Health, and included specific wording from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Boyette also said there is no lead in the water system.
Water associations are required to periodically sample for lead and copper from the customer's tap.
Boyette said the samples indicated no problems with copper, but three out of 10 samples taken from homes on the same well showed excessive lead content. No lead was found in another five samples which were taken from homes on the association's other well.
The three samples containing high lead content were taken from a well undergoing corrosion control for iron. All three came from an area near Highway 11 and Valley Road, Boyette said.
What can be done to control excessive lead?
One of the health department's requirements when a water system exceeds the 90th percentile is corrosion-control treatments. The treatment chemical, put into the water at the plant, also helps cut down on "red water," or water with high iron content, Boyette said.
He said notices were also mailed to each customer. Since water can corrode a faucet, causing lead to get into the water running from the tap, Boyette said customers concerned about lead or copper should let their cold water run for about 30 seconds the first time they turn on their faucets each day.
The Southwest Lauderdale Water Association was recently approved for $1.5 million in loans and grants for water system upgrades. It will be upgrading the treatment plant and well from which the three samples with high lead content came, Boyette said. He said the money will also allow new equipment and corrosion-control treatments for the other well.
What health officials say
Rick Herrington, director of the Office of Environmental Health with the Mississippi Department of Health, said the Safe Drinking Water Act requires all public water systems to test for lead and copper. This testing has been ongoing since 1993.
When testing started, all water systems went into a six-month sampling period. After a year, if there were no violations, they went into an annual sampling period for three years. If there were no violations during that three years, they went into a three-year cycling period.
He said Southwest was in the three-year cycle when the lead content exceeded the EPA's action level. Southwest now has to start over and samples will be taken again in six months.
According to the public notice, lead content can cause health hazards, such as interference with red blood cell chemistry, slight deficits in attention span, hearing and learning abilities, and slight blood pressure increases.
Herrington said he could not provide a medical opinion, but said, "had the level in the water been high enough to pose a hazard in the people, we would have asked for the water not to be consumed."
He added that department officials there don't "feel like this is a big problem, the system is working on it, and the water is still considered to be safe to drink."
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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