Over the last year, you have probably heard about the lead levels in Flint, Michigan. “Flint’s tap water was laced with dangerous levels of lead, the state knew about it and did nothing,” a CNN reporter announced. The question remains, did the awful events occur directly from the switch between Detroit’s water supply to Flint’s water supply? Or, is the real problem the lead pipe, lead fittings, lead joints, and lead compounds plumbers installed in our country for 80 straight years?
The answer is both. Yes, the city did induce corrosive water into the cities tap water which caused the lead to corrode. Please understand the underlying problem; lead. Ingesting even the slightest amount of lead can create lower I.Q. levels, anti-social behavior, reduced attention span, and even high blood pressure. I was able to speak to the State Plumbing Administrator, the gentleman who administrates Ohio plumbing inspectors. According to him, “Once lead is disturbed, it can be a problem.”
Can lead be disturbed by pressurized water? “No,” explains our general manager, “it is the combination of corrosive water and old lead pipes.” Catherine Cooney of the Chemical & Engineering News explains, “A naturally occurring lead scale in old water pipes lowers lead contamination more effectively than an established water treatment strategy.” She goes on, “Water utilities add a variety of chemicals to reduce pipe corrosion and to maintain the scale deposits that act as a protective barrier.”
Soft Copper was introduced into the plumbing industry in 1940, however it was initially extremely expensive. One type of PEX (a plastic water supply pipe) was banned in 1980 when they found traces of lead in the product. According to Alison Young of USA Today, water supply systems “serving water to 6 million people have found excessive and harmful levels of lead.” In another article, there are estimated of over 7 million lead service lines in the United States. Service Lines are water supply pipes from the main (typically under the street) to the home or business.
“If you have a lead water service line in Cleveland, replace it immediately,” advises Larry Betlejewski, general manager at Approved Plumbing Co. in Broadview Heights. “The problem is our country already has plumbing products made with lead. They were installed in homes, businesses, underground, etc… It would take an unseen amount of money and decades to replace. I see people remodeling bathrooms to impress people, and not even consider replacing their old products containing lead. Just like a car, a home continually needs maintenance to stay healthy, and function properly.”
They need to understand, their bathroom is just one aspect of their entire plumbing system. It is a never ending battle as the plumbing code continues to change. Larry predicts, “In 50 years, we could see an entirely different set of problems related to the new products plumbers install.”
Consult with a professional before buying your new faucet, or hiring a handy-man. It is imperative that home owners use a licensed plumbing contractor that supplies “Lead-Free” products. In 2011, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act was signed into law. This lowered the lead content in plumbing products from 8.0% to 0.25%. You can read more about this at www.approvedplumbing.com/blog