In a January article, the Guardian reported on a frightening trend in water safety: namely that water authorities across the nation deliberately downplay the amount of lead found in public water.
According to the Guardian’s anonymous source, who the publication claims has extensive knowledge of copper and lead regulations, tactics used are so common they apply to “every major US city east of the Mississippi.” To make matters worse, water authorities aren’t breaking the law when they downplay lead levels. They’re still, under the strictest legal terms, compliant with EPA regulations.
What’s happening is complicated. The offending water authorities use tests the EPA considers misleading, but which are not actually illegal. In other words, it’s possible to ignore EPA guidelines and still meet EPA regulations.
One strategy is to advise homeowners to test water using questionable methods. For instance, homeowners may be told to run the cold water tap for several minutes before collecting water samples, a procedure known as preflushing that reduces lead levels. A more accurate test collects first-flow water—water collected from the tap first thing in the morning, after the water has sat undisturbed in pipes overnight.
A variation of preflushing occurs when homeowners are asked to remove the aerator from the tap. Doing to increases water flow, which again reduces the amount of lead in the sample. In a particularly sneaky move, some authorities provide sample vials with small openings and recommend using a slow, steady flow of water. As these are more difficult to fill, the tap runs longer, reducing lead levels in the sample.
Again, none of these tactics are illegal, per se. The water authority can claim—with legal accuracy—to be within EPA regulations. This has to change, but changes to federal regulations come slowly, when they come at all.
The Guardian article suggests what anyone following the Flint, Michigan, crisis already suspects: that we have to question the honesty and integrity of our public water authorities. If these allegations are true, millions of Americans are drinking water with unsafe levels of lead.
How do we, as a nation, resolve this issue? In the past, we’ve suggesting the issue of safe drinking water needs to become a political hot potato, and certainly Flint has generated enough media attention to make politicians take notice. Whether they continue to do so depends on the voices of their constituents.
In the meantime, we have to consider our drinking water suspect, if not outright unsafe. Installing an NSF certified reverse osmosis countertop filter or NSF certified countertop drinking filter safely removes lead from water intended for drinking and cooking.
The effects of lead while bathing or showering are poorly understood in comparison to ingestion. However, it should be noted aerosolized water droplets containing lead can be inhaled while showering. A whole house water filter removes lead from all incoming water, not just that used in the kitchen, Pelican Water has developed a specific whole house system to address lead in water, to find out more speak to one of our water specialists today. Whether you choose a countertop or whole house filter, be sure to opt for on that is NSF-certified.