Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DPU's Role in Keeping The Lead Out

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has been monitoring and addressing the issue of potential for lead contamination of drinking water for over 20 years. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Lead and Copper Rule in 1991, DPU began to collect data and make changes to its system to maintain compliance with all requirements. The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule focuses on treatment techniques for lead and requires water systems to control the corrosivity of the water and conduct monitoring as needed to check performance. DPU did testing as part of the “Loop Study” to best determine the optimal chemical, chemical dose and pH to best keep lead from leaching into the City of Richmond drinking water.

DPU's Water Treatment Cycle
Over the years, DPU has upgraded its systems to help ensure proper chemical doses. There will also be a new calcium hydroxide system going into service in the next two months to better control the pH of the finished water. DPU monitors the pH of the water with online equipment that give instantaneous results, and also run tests twice a day to verify proper chemical dosage.

Lead Testing
In addition to the process control performed at the Water Treatment Plant, there is also monitoring of the water that leaves the plant. As the water leaves the Treatment Plant it is tested for lead content by the Virginia Department of Consolidated Laboratories once a year. The results for this testing have always been well below the 15 µg/L action level set by EPA.

Every three years DPU is required to collect water samples from customers at 50 different locations throughout the service area. These samples are tested for lead and copper concentrations and the report is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health. Since the program started, the system has been in compliance for both lead and copper levels.

As needed based upon information or a request that indicates there may be a lead issue at a specific customer location (e.g., medical exam may show high levels of lead in the body, or lead pipes or lead solder is discovered during plumbing repairs), the city will conduct sampling at the site and provide the customer with the results of the testing. This not a frequent issue. Over the last four years DPU has responded to 24 requests and all results have come back below the EPA action levels.

What You Can Do
The water service line after the water meter and the pipes in all buildings are owned by the property owner and they make decisions on how and when to renew those pipes. When they are replaced, it must be done so in compliance with current codes and lead-free fixture standards.

If customers are concerned about the possibility of lead in drinking water, they should flush the taps by letting the water run for at least 60 seconds. If your dwelling has a lead service line, you should flush water for an additional two to three minutes to ensure you're getting fresh water from the water main. To conserve water, you can collect the water being flushed and use for cleaning purposes or watering plants.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cold Weather Information Roundup!

Cold weather tips for your plumbing:

Open up the cabinet doors under your sinks to let the warm air from the house keep your pipes warm.

If any of your plumbing pipes run through unheated areas of your home, let the faucet drip slightly until temperatures are above freezing again.

If you turn on the faucet and no water comes out, or it comes out very slowly, call a plumber right away. Turn off your water at the main shut off valve. Your pipes are frozen!

Never thaw out frozen pipes with an open flame. You will burn your house down or damage the pipe. Use a hand-held hair dryer instead, but not if there’s standing water on the floor! (If there’s standing water, thaw out frozen pipes with hot towels, not anything electric.) Direct the air from the dryer toward the faucet and work your way to the end of the pipe.

If you leave home for an extended period during the winter, don’t turn your heat off unless you have bled all the pipes first. Do that by turning off the water at the main and then running all the faucets until they run dry. If you are away for a short time, don’t turn your heat off or too low. You may come home to frozen pipes!

Wrap water pipes in insulation or layers of newspaper, tied on with plastic bags.

Remove, drain and put away your outdoor hoses. If they are out in the yard with water in them, they are going to burst.

Turn off the valves to your outside faucets and drain any water in the faucet. Pack insulation around the faucet and then tie a plastic bag over it to hold the insulation in place.

Close all the air vents in the foundation wall of your crawl space under the house. If your pipes freeze, use a hair dryer to thaw them, not a blow torch!

Do you know where your main water cut-off valve is in your house? Find it, mark it, tell all family members how to cut off the water. If a water pipe breaks in your house, you want to be able to turn off the water as quickly as possible.

If you're going out of town during cold weather, turn off the water service to the entire house and drain the pipes so you don't come home to an unpleasant surprise!

If you lower your thermostat at night, don’t do it when the weather is below freezing. Keep those water pipes warm!

Cold Weather Policy for Gas Disconnections

Gas service will not be disconnected when the daily temperature is equal to or less than 32 degrees from Dec. 1-March 31 if
  • The below freezing forecasted temperature is for a 24-hour period
  • It occurs on a Friday or any time during the following weekend
  • The customer has a Life Support coded account which indicates elderly, senior care, dialysis or medical
If payment is not received, service will be disconnected on the next business day that the temperature is predicted to be above 32 degrees for the next 24 hours, or during the weekend.

Unless the service is for a daycare center, nursing home, church or bulk metered multi-dwelling where occupants reside, temperature will not prevent disconnection of these services. 

Confirmed theft of service situations will be disconnected regardless of weather conditions.

Running a Generator or Gas-Powered Space Heater? Be Safe

Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the most common causes of deadly poisoning. Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless, and nonirritating. It can be inhaled directly into the bloodstream where it displaces oxygen from hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen through the body. Without oxygen, the brain, heart, and muscles suffocate and cease to function.

Early symptoms of poisoning include headaches, nausea, and vomiting that get better when you leave the area. Advanced symptoms include loss of concentration and memory, falling into a coma, and dying. Pets in the house may fall ill and die sooner than adult humans, so if your pet shows any of these symptoms, or you come home to find a pet dead, suspect carbon monoxide and get out quick!

Any area that contains a car, barbecue, lawn mower, gas stove, hot water heater, furnace, fireplace, or snow blower is capable of containing deadly carbon monoxide fumes not only in the garage, room, or basement where they are located, but in any attached living quarters. You can even inhale too much carbon monoxide outside if you are too near an exhaust.

Never use a gas or charcoal grill in an enclosed space. Regularly service your furnace. Don't idle your car or lawn mower in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. Don't operate generators too close to the house, especially in the garage or by a window.

Have at least one carbon monoxide monitor in your home. If the alarm goes off, throw open all the windows and doors immediately and get everyone out of the house. Then call 911. If you live in an attached apartment or duplex, the fumes may be coming from a common vent. Have the emergency responders check on your neighbors as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Detect Drips Inside and Out for Fix a Leak Week

Fix a Leak Week
Communities across the country will join WaterSense to crack the case of household leaks for the 8th annual Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2016. WaterSense partners are encouraging Americans to become leak detectives to reduce the more than 1 trillion gallons of water lost each year by homes across the country due to leaks indoors and out. You can be a leak detective and save more than 10,000 gallons of water per home on average by taking three simple steps: check, twist, and replace:
  1. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak. Check your sprinkler system for winter damage. You can also put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank; wait 10 minutes before flushing, and if color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
  2. Twist faucet valves, tighten pipe connections, and secure your hose to the spigot. For additional savings, twist a WaterSense labeled aerator onto each bathroom faucet to save water without noticing a difference in flow.
  3. Replace old and leaky plumbing fixtures with WaterSense labeled models, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models. You can also replace irrigation clock timers with WaterSense labeled controllers that tell your sprinkler when and how much to water based on local weather conditions.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Customer Photos!

Brandon Covey cooks a delicious dinner on his natural gas stove. Submitted by Emily Prince.

Lorrie White's daughter, Emma, entertains their goldendoodle Josie in front of their natural gas fireplace in Glen Allen.

Karen Mullins of the Brightwood neighborhood in Northside decorates the mantel of her natural gas fireplace instead of a tree. "A warm gas fireplace makes it all so holiday cozy," especially for her dog, Abby!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Get a 10 Percent Discount on Flood Insurance

Jonet  Prevost-White (center), Stormwater operations manager, accepted on behalf of the Stormwater Division, an award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for participating in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System. The department qualified by undertaking a series of meaningful activities to protect residents from losses caused by flooding and exceeding the requirements for effective floodplain management. Presenting the award before City Council was Mari Radford, a mitigation planner for FEMA (second from left). Also attending were Gay Stokes, Stormwater community liaison (not pictured), Stuart Platt, DPU engineer (right), Chul Chong from the Department of Public Works (second from right) and Charles Kline from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (left).

The City of Richmond participates in the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS), which currently means you can get a 10 percent discount on your flood insurance policies.

What is CRS?
CRS is a voluntary program sponsored by the National Flood Insurance Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It promotes and encourages community floodplain management activities that go above and beyond what is required.

How will this impact me?
For each specific activity the City of Richmond does to educate and reach out to citizens about the floodplain, flood prone areas, how to protect property or flood insurance, the city earn points and receives a class level. For each class level the city achieves, flood insurance policy holders receive a 5 percent discount. There are 10 class levels, 10 being the lowest with no discount. When the program began in October 2015, the City of Richmond’s flood insurance policy holders received a Class 8, meaning a 10 percent discount on their flood insurance policies. 

Where can I find out more information?
The best information can be found at Contact the Water Resources Division for the City of Richmond at 804-646-7586 to find out more about your property. An interactive FEMA floodplain map can be found on the city’s website at
Check frequently for more information as it becomes available.

Lower Fuel Costs for Richmond Natural Gas Customers

Beginning with the first utility bills in January 2016, natural gas customers of the city of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will see a savings on their monthly utility bill.  Mayor Dwight C. Jones has authorized DPU to lower the Purchased Gas Cost (PGC) portion of the natural gas utility bill from $0.425 to $0.325 per Ccf (100 cubic feet). Other components of the natural gas bill – the distribution charge and customer charge – are unchanged.      

The PGC rate of the average residential customer who uses 70 Ccf’s of natural gas per month will pay approximately $71.11 compared to a current bill of $78.11. This equates to a 24 percent reduction in the PGC rate charged by the City and an overall ten (10) percent reduction in the entire natural gas bill.  

At the time of this release, DPU’s PGC rate is less than or equal to surrounding natural gas franchises. Mayor Jones stated, “This is more good news for our customers. We are always pleased when we are in a position to offer significant savings. The City continues to review and adjust the gas costs on a quarterly basis to reflect the price that DPU pays for natural gas and we’ve been able to steadily reduce the costs over the past year.  By law, we pass along the cost of the natural gas purchased and delivered to our customers, dollar for dollar without any markup.”