Water testing discovered high levels of lead in the Newark, New Jersey water supply despite city officials claiming otherwise. Until recently, few people in Newark knew the severity of the lead contamination. Now, 40,000 water filters are being distributed across New Jersey’s most populous city. Though not as severe, the effects of the Newark water crisis are like those of Flint, Michigan.
The lead in Newark’s water supply comes from old, corrosive service lines, or the pipes from the water meter to a home, which could take millions to replace. Homeowners, primarily responsible to pay to replace old pipes on private property, are upset over the lack of transparency regarding the data from water tests.
Lead is so toxic that no amount in drinking water is safe. In a recent 2016 report from the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) database, over 6 million people and 2,000 water systems had excessive lead levels in their drinking water over a 4-year span. In Flint, Michigan, the city failed to apply corrosion control, but in Newark, the city’s corrosion control methods failed. 12% of water samples from this year exceeded this amount.
The EPA’s goal for lead in water is zero, but city water must not exceed 15 parts per billion. The Lead and Copper Rule, established by the EPA to protect public drinking water supplies, requires public water systems to monitor water for lead. If 10% of their customers exceed this limit, the public must be given information on how to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.
So, what is lead? How does lead get in your water? And what should you do when it does? Our certified Master Water Specialist, John Woodard, explains why lead may present even in areas where the drinking water is generally considered to be safe and how to remove it from the water supply.
How does lead get in your water?
Lead is a chemical element used historically in construction and plumbing pipes because of its soft, malleable texture. Most lead contamination comes from corrosive pipes and fixtures that deliver drinking water, especially those built before 1986, the year using lead in construction was banned. As water travels through water service lines, it absorbs lead and contaminants from old pipes.
Why is the lead in water so dangerous?
Lead ingestion poses a serious health risk to adults and children. Consuming lead causes irreversible neurological and development in young children and leads to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning a chronic illness that may cause learning, behavioral, and developmental issues, as well as severe damage to the immune system, bones, and teeth. Children may also experience stunted growth, impaired hearing, and anemia. Lead also cause premature birth and hinders a fetus’s development. Adults may experience cardiovascular, kidney, and reproductive problems.
What you should or should not do if your water is contaminated with lead
- Install a water filter or water filtration system.
- Run water and flush your toilets to rinse lead from your water supply.
- Use cold water to cook with since hot water is more corrosive.
- Send your kids to school with fresh water if the city supply is contaminated.
- Don’t boil water. Boiling water kills living organisms, but it does not reduce lead.
- Do shower. Skin does not absorb lead, so it’s ok to take a shower as long as you don’t drink the water.
- Don’t take chances. Lead is toxic no matter how small the amount. Take precautionary measures – don’t wait until you experience the side effects of lead poisoning.
How do you remove lead from water?
First, test your water. You’ll want to know what’s in your water to find the appropriate filter. The utility company will provide a contamination report on your water supply. However, because water can absorb contaminates after it leaves the water treatment plant, you should test the water coming out of your faucet with a water test kit.
After determining the levels of lead in your drinking water from a test, one of the best options would be a point-of-use water filtration system, installed directly at your sink. You can also use a whole house filtration system to filter the water throughout your entire home.
We recommend the following water filters or filtration systems to remove lead:
Neo-Pure TL1 – a simple water filter, perfect for quick installation in your home, rental, or apartment
Neo-Pure TL3 – a water filtration system that goes under your kitchen sink
A reverse osmosis system – a system that cleans water through reverse osmosis and a carbon filtration