HEALTH EFFECTS OF LEAD
The District's treated water is lead-free when it leaves our treatment plant and Ute Water has never used lead service lines in our distribution system. However, because of some of the unique properties of lead, such as its ductility and resistance to corrosion, lead was considered a good material for constructing water pipes prior to 1986.
In 1986, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act and incorporated a ban on the use of lead in plumbing. The ban went into effect in June of 1986 nationwide and prohibited the installation of lead pipe and plumbing components. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, plumbing fixtures, and copper pipe when lead solder was used. Ute Water has never used lead service lines in our distribution system, but contractors may have used lead service lines or components in homes built prior to June of 1986.
Because new regulations often take time to implement, it is safe to assume your home does not have any lead service line components if it was built after 1988.
Why is lead a problem?
Lead exposure can harm children’s brain development, contributing to lower IQs as well as learning and behavioral problems. Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the harm appears to be greater at lower exposures in children than in adults. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.
Who is most impacted by lead exposure?
Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, lower levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter or more.
Is there a safe level of lead in drinking water?
According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to determine the levels of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. Known as maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). These non-enforceable health goals are based solely on possible health risks. EPA has set the MCLG for lead in drinking water at zero because the best available science shows that there are no safe levels of exposure to lead.
Should I be concerned about lead levels in my water?
No. Ute Water samples your water for lead in accordance with all applicable state and federal and we do not have elevated lead levels in our drinking water.
For most contaminants, EPA sets an enforceable regulation called an (MCL) based on the MCLG (from above). MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as possible, considering cost, benefits, and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies. However, because lead contamination of drinking water often results from corrosion of the plumbing materials belonging to water system customers, EPA established a treatment technique rather than an MCL for lead.
The treatment technique regulation for lead requires water systems to control the corrosivity of the water, which Ute Water does primarily through pH adjustment. The regulation also requires systems to collect tap samples from sites served by the system that are more likely to have plumbing materials containing lead. If more than 10 percent of tap water samples exceed the lead action level of 15 micrograms per liter, then water systems are required to take additional actions including:
Taking further steps to optimize their corrosion control treatment.
Educating the public about lead in drinking water and actions consumers can take to reduce their exposure to lead.
Replacing lead service lines if present.
Historically, Ute Water has not seen lead levels that exceed the action level of 15 micrograms per liter. In recent years, the District's compliance value for lead has been zero micrograms per liter, meaning at least 90% of all samples had no detectable lead.
More information about the District's drinking water can be found in our Annual Water Quality Report.
SPECIFIC HEALTH IMPACTS
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium.
Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus to lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
Reduced growth of the fetus
More information about lead's effects on pregnancy can be found here.
Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk. More information can be found here.