Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lead and Copper in Your Pipes - What You Should Know

Although it is unlikely there are sufficient quantities of lead and copper in your drinking water to cause health problems, your home's plumbing could be depositing lead and copper in your water.

When your water has been sitting in your pipes for several hours—for instance in the morning, or when you return from work or a trip away from home—you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. Run the tap until the water becomes noticeably colder.

Flushing tap water is a simple and inexpensive measure you can take to protect your family’s health. It uses less than one or two gallons of water and costs less than 42 cents per month. To conserve water while flushing, fill bottles for drinking water after you flush the tap and refrigerate. Use first-flush water to wash dishes or water plants.

Try not to cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water dissolves lead deposits in pipes faster than cold water. To heat water for cooking, draw it from the cold tap and heat it on the stove.

Lead soldering was banned in 1986.  If your copper pipes were joined illegally with lead solder, notify the plumber who did the work and request it be replaced with lead-free solder. Lead solder looks dull gray, and when scratched with a key, it appears shiny. If your home was built prior to 1986, have a licensed plumber or private home inspector inspect the lines, or have your water tested for lead and copper levels, and be sure to run your cold water tap for 30 seconds before using it for drinking or food preparation, and use hot water only for washing.

Consumer Confidence Reports on water quality are distributed annually to customers by the Richmond Department of Public Utilities and contain information on lead and copper levels.  Email dpuc@richmondgov.com to receive the latest copy.

Voluntary Water Conservation Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does a voluntary water conservation measure mean?
Residents in the City of Richmond and surrounding counties are asked to voluntarily restrict water use. The biggest impact to residents with voluntary restriction is the watering of their lawns which is:
Monday - No watering, Odd property addresses - Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
Even property addresses - Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
This watering schedule spreads the water demand over the week so we don’t have to pull as much water at one time out of the James River.

2. Why did the City issue a Voluntary Water Conservation measure?
The City of Richmond operates on a 14 day rolling average and in accordance with the requirements of our permit, whenever levels in the James River get down below 1200 cfs (cubic feet per second) or 3 ½ to 3 ¾ feet depth of water in the James River we must issue a voluntary water conservation measure.

3. What is the current James River level?
Currently our 14-day rolling average is 1,216 cfs. (as of Sept. 15, 2010)

4. What are the stages/trigger levels for announcing conservation measures?
Ready Alert – 1,300 cfs (cubic feet per second)
Voluntary Conservation – 1,200 cfs
Mandatory Conservation – 750 cfs

5. What happens if someone doesn’t comply with the water restrictions?
Depending on individual usage amounts during voluntary or mandatory conservation measures, DPU customers may also see a conservation rate surcharge on their utility bill as a result of DPU’s water conservation rate.

6. When did DPU’s water conservation rate go into effect?
July 1, 2008

7. What does having a water-conservation rate mean to a DPU customer?
During voluntary and mandatory conservation periods, customers who make the decision to use more than 140 percent of their normal winter water usage (water consumed during the months of December, January and February) will pay a higher commodity rate on their excess usage. This is to encourage conservation-friendly behavior.

8. The following is an example of the overage amount that a customer would be charged if they exceed their normal winter water usage during voluntary or mandatory water conservation measures. (Note:  CCf = 100 cubic feet)
Example of Average Winter Monthly Consumption = 8 Ccf
Conservation Charge Threshold (8 Ccf X 140%) = 11 Ccf
Actual monthly consumption during conservation period = 20 Ccf
Consumption subject to conservation rate (20 Ccf – 11 Ccf) = 9 Ccf
In this example, 11 Ccf would be billed at the normal commodity rate and 9 Ccf would be billed at the higher conservation commodity rate (50% premium in voluntary; 100% premium in mandatory)

9. How much longer will the restrictions last?
Voluntary water restrictions, when implemented, typically run at least until October 31.

10. Which localities does this voluntary restriction affect?
It affects Goochland, Hanover, Henrico and the city of Richmond.

11. Do all of the counties and the city of Richmond get water from the same source?
Henrico County and the city of Richmond obtain their water from the James River. The city of Richmond also has Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover Counties as direct customers, and Goochland and Powhatan counties as indirect water customers. Portions of Chesterfield County obtain their water from Lake Chesdin, which is governed by the Appomatox Water Authority.

12. If we don’t get any rain, what is the next step?
Mandatory water restriction is the next step and that would take place if water in the James River falls below 750 cfs.

The chart below outlines the categories included in the Voluntary Water Conservation Measure

Established Landscape, Lawns & Gardens

  • Monday – no watering
  • Odd property addresses water Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
  •  Even property addresses water Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday (Odd/Even designation is determined by last digit of address number)
  • Bucket watering (five gallon max. permitted anytime)

New Landscape, New Lawns, Aeration & Seeding

  • Unrestricted for first 10 days after planting, then limited to the “Established Landscape, Lawns and Gardens” measures

Vegetable Gardens
  •  Limited to any two days per week and between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. on any day. Bucket watering is unrestricted

Paved Areas Washing (Streets, Drives, Patios, Walks, etc.)

  • Limited to two days per week. Unrestricted for immediate health and safety concerns

Vehicle Washing (Commercial Businesses Exempt)

  • Limited to two days per week using a hand-held hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle

Golf Courses (Greens Exempt)

  • Limited to 8 p.m. thru 10 a.m. on any day

Swimming Pools

  • Limited to filling required to maintain health and safety
Fountains (not included in Chesterfield County ordinance)

  • Limited to any two days per week and between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. on any day

  • Limited to essential uses


  • No restrictions

All Other Consumption Uses

  • Encourage conservation by any means

Monday, September 13, 2010

Celebrate the Greening of 5th Street Alley

Monday, Sept. 13 was the ribbon cutting and reception for the 5th Street Alley Project, which is located parallel to 4th and 5th streets between E. Main and E. Cary streets downtown. Green alleys reduce stormwater pollution by using porous surfacing (permeable pavers) that allow water to soak through rather than run off.

Green alleys can reduce runoff from common rainstorms by as much as 100 percent, eliminating puddles and local flooding. Snow melts faster on permeable pavement and drains, reducing ice hazards. They also reduce urban heat.

The 5th Street alley was chosen as the pilot project because of the numerous design and construction challenges it presented -- a steep slope, several entrances, cobblestone with asphalt ramps, and underground utilities. If the construction was successful at this location, then other alleys would benefit easily from green technology.

The second alley to undergo resurfacing using green technology will be the 12th Street alley between E. Main and E. Cary and 12th and 13th streets. It's due to be completed by the end of fall 2010.

Customer Photos - Loving Natural Gas

Nine-month old Amelia Curell, daughter of Ken and Holly Currell, enjoys a warm bath. "We love our gas powered water heater. It makes bath time fun, warm, and endless," reports Holly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cleaning Catch Basins

One of the main tasks of the new Stormwater Division is to clean the catch basins. Basins get clogged with garbage that either sweeps into the basins during rainstorms or is thrown in by people. Vacuum trucks have to visit each catch basin in the city and vacuum the garbage and debris out to keep the stormwater water from backing up and flowing neighborhood streets.

Just beginning to fill up.

Full of trash (above). Vacuum truck cleaning catch basin (below).

DPU at The Diamond

Department of Public Utilities employees manned a table at The Diamond, Aug. 25, to distribute energy conversation materials, natural gas safety coloring books and crayons. The Diamond was nearly a sell-out that evening due to a fireworks show. Capacity is 9,560 and the Flying Squirrels averaged 6,626 per game this season. The Squirrels lost 4-2 against the Reading Phillies.

Pat Newsome, Mike Kearns and Monica Marlow of DPU distribute materials to attendees at a Flying Squirrels game.