BRICK – An expert in lead contamination is expected to soon poke through the township’s water system, trying to determine how best to bring down dangerous levels discovered several weeks ago, officials said.
The Brick Municipal Utilities Authority suspects the pipes inside residents’ homes – not the water supply itself – are to blame for the elevated lead levels found in nearly half the homes tested this summer.
But with water in 16 of the 34 homes tested having more lead than the maximum amount allowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the authority needs to figure out what happened and determine the best way to keep residents at its approximately 38,000 connections safe, said James Lacey, its executive director.
“We know it’s not our water – it’s top notch,” said Lacey, noting that recent tests of the supply itself found negligible amounts of the heavy metal.
The authority has tasked its consulting engineer, Red Bank’s Maser Consulting, to take a closer look at its corrosion control methods to determine if there is a better additive that can be used to control the lead in household pipes and solder from loosening, according to authority documents.
Maser is subcontracting the work for $5,000 to Cathy DiPietro, an engineer who is an expert in examining corrosion control methods and in lead, Lacey said.
Infants and children who drink lead-laced water could develop deficits in their learning abilities and attention spans, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Adults who consume the water over many years may be more prone to kidney problems or to high blood pressure, according to the site.
The EPA caps lead in water at 15 parts per billion. Lead levels in homes that were over the limit ranged from 15.5 ppb to 184.5 ppb, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Michael Gochfeld, a clinical professor at Rutgers University’s Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, said a reading above 100 ppb is extremely rare.
“Once you get past 25 (ppb) it almost doesn’t matter, the level is too high,” Gochfeld said last month.
With the authority scoring well in the lead test in recent years, one primary question is what changed in recent years that lead to such elevated lead levels this summer.
One theory the authority is considering blames superstorm Sandy.
With many people still not back in their homes because of the storm, the underutilized drinking water supply’s acidity levels may have increased near the ends of the system. The more acidic water would have then been more likely to eat away at the pipes and solder, according to the authority’s theory.
DiPietro is expected to analyze the validity of the theory and the effectiveness of a corrosion inhibitor the authority had already begun to add to the water supply before the recent lead test results, Lacey said.
The authority must submit a report to the DEP by the end of March, Lacey said.
Kevin Pentón: 732-643-4009; email@example.com
How to get the lead out:
1. Run water for at least 30 seconds if pipes have not been used for at least six hours.
2. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and for making baby formula, as hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.
3. Buy a lead test kit from a pharmacy or from a home improvement store.
4. Do not boil water as a way to get rid of lead, as water contaminated with the metal will likely only have a higher concentration of it.
Source: Federal EPA