Lead findings in Tacoma water leads to concern

Grace Amsden, Editor-in-Chief

If there’s a hazard with a basic necessity such as portable water, most people will grow concerned, especially after the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

There have been concerns regarding pipes installed in the early 1900s in Tacoma, according to Tacoma Public Utilities on mytpu.org, who stated that the situation in Flint has “sharpened the focus on lead in drinking water across the country and prompted Tacoma Water to re-examine any remaining lead materials we may still have in our system.”

In Tacoma, there’s an estimated 1,200 goosenecks pipes from the 1900s which contain lead, according to TPU’s update May 18. The company stated on April 29 that after testing the water quality and collecting samples at four customers’ homes from the service lines, some of the lead levels were higher than 15 parts per billion, “the federally acceptable limit of lead in drinking water” which is “in no more than 10 percent of collected samples” according to cityofpuyallup.org. This occurred for “at least 90 percent of homes tested,” according to mytpu.org.

“I’d be mad,” student Donovan Fuselier said when questioned about his reaction if he found out he had high amounts of lead in his drinking water. “(I) probably wouldn’t be able to do much, because I’m just one person. (I’d) probably get a petition or something signed.”

LeadDrinking water contaminated with lead usually doesn’t result from the water source, according to TPU, but “from the plumbing that serves or is inside customers’ homes, from corrosion of lead-containing plumbing or fixtures or the solder that connects copper pipes.”

As for Puyallup, there isn’t a concern regarding high amounts of lead in drinking water due to the lack of lead pipes and goosenecks, but tests are conducted every three years for homes with copper pipes and lead, according to cityofpuyallup.org.

The more recent test conducted for Puyallup was in 2014, according to cityofpuyallup.org.

The results show that the average level of lead found was 8 ppb. A high majority of results from the homes included in the testing had levels of 3 ppb or less, reported by The City of Puyallup.

As for the possibility of high amounts of lead in the water at either Pierce campus, there isn’t much of a concern for this, Director of Campus Safety and Security Chris MacKersie said.

Pierce College Puyallup water is supplied by the City of Puyallup Water Division and the Fort Steilacoom campus water by the Lakewood Water District.

The college isn’t in charge of testing its water because it’s already tested by the companies, MacKersie said, who doesn’t recall an incident with the water at Pierce regarding lead or hazardous materials in the 20 years he’s been at the college.

“We understand that the people or systems that would be at risk, or buildings or infrastructures that would be at risk, are things that were constructed well before the late 1960s,” MacKersie said. “Our very oldest building in the district was built in 1973. So as we understand it, we’re well outside of the window of any possibility of them using lead fittings.”

Copper’s a significant pipe material at Pierce, Mackersie said.

“At (the) Puyallup (campus), the buildings are all so new,” MacKersie said. “If we were to have an issue, the issue would have to really come from the water system and water supplier and they’re required to test the water all the time.”

If there was an issue with the water at Pierce College, the actions for what would happen are situationally dependent, such as transitioning the college into suspended operation or closing the campus until appropriate mitigation was underway, MacKersie said.

“Based on the information that we have, we have no reason for the concern of the quality of water at either of our campuses,” MacKersie said.

On May 18, water samples were collected from 12 Tacoma homes believed to have goosenecks with lead in them, according to TPU. The company states that water is safe, as “all 464 samples collected from within the homes are well below the EPA action level for lead.” For the potential 1,200 homes with goosenecks, TPU will contact the homeowners about a water test kit obtainable July 1.

In the meantime, TPU states that “Tacoma Water will remove lead goosenecks as expediently and efficiently as possible from its system. We anticipate it will take about five years to replace all of them.”

Visit www.mytpu.org/, cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm or waterquality@cityoftacoma.org for more information.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Grace Amsden
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Lead findings in Tacoma water leads to concern

by Grace Amsden time to read: 3 min