Waimea alerted to lead in water
By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawai'i More than 3,000 homes and businesses on the Waimea water system have been alerted that their drinking water may contain excessive amounts of lead.
Following testing of samples from the Waimea system, notices were mailed to customers by the county Department of Water Supply in compliance with federal requirements, said Mae Kise, a microbiologist with the department. The notices are required by the Environmental Protection Agency when lead levels rise above 15 parts per billion.
The EPA said lead contamination usually is a problem only in very old homes and very new homes.
The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 banned all use of lead materials in public water systems and homes hooked up to these systems, but did not eliminate lead contamination within existing plumbing.
For more information on high lead levels:
Hawai'i County Department of Water Supply (808) 961-8670
State Department of Health (808) 974-4000, Ext. 64258
State Consumer Affairs (for building permit records and information on plumbing contractors) (808) 933-8846
EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791
National Lead Information Center (800) LEAD-FYI
The Hawai'i County Water Department said homeowners should deal with their contractors to resolve problems with lead soldering.
Too much lead in the human body can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. Young children and pregnant women are at greatest risk for health problems from lead contamination, even short-term exposure.
The EPA recommends two actions that are effective in reducing lead levels from household plumbing.
First, any time the water in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, flush the cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take anywhere from five seconds to more than two minutes.
Second, the EPA advises using only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking and making baby formula, because hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.
Water officials said residents should be particularly suspicious if their home has lead pipes; if there are signs of corrosion such as frequent leaks, rust-colored water, stained dishes or stained laundry; or if nonplastic plumbing is less than 5 years old.
Lead is a dull, gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key. Since you cannot see, taste or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether your drinking water contains harmful quantities of lead. The Hawai'i County Water Department has a list of state-approved commercial laboratories on O'ahu where water can be tested for lead contamination.