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 potential for lead contamination of drinking water for more than 20 years. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Lead and Copper Rule in 1991, DPU began collecting data and making 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. DPU did testing as part of the “Loop Study” to best determine the optimal chemical, chemical dose and pH to  keep lead from leaching into the city's drinking water.

DPU's Water Treatment Cycle
Over the years, DPU has upgraded its systems to 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 provides instantaneous results, and also runs tests twice a day to verify proper chemical dosage.

Lead Testing
In addition to the process control performed at the Water Treatment Plant, water that leaves the plant is also monitored. 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 on 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 decide how and when to renew those pipes. When pipes 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.