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Home > Nelson water cited for lead levels

 

WINTERGREEN — Wintergreen-area residents last week were sent letters warning them of elevated lead content recently found in drinking water, a topic that also was discussed at the Nelson County Service Authority’s Feb. 21 meeting.
The Virginia Department of Health issued the authority a lead and copper citation Jan. 14 for elevated lead levels found in drinking water in homes in the Wintergreen area.

WINTERGREEN — Wintergreen-area residents last week were sent letters warning them of elevated lead content recently found in drinking water, a topic that also was discussed at the Nelson County Service Authority’s Feb. 21 meeting.

The Virginia Department of Health issued the authority a lead and copper citation Jan. 14 for elevated lead levels found in drinking water in homes in the Wintergreen area.

In elevated levels, "lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and children six years and younger," according to a letter sent to affected customers.

David Hight, vice chairman of the service authority, said the water sources for NCSA Wintergreen do not contain lead, "and that the problem is happening after it leaves here."

The authority sent the letters, mailed Feb. 22 with affected customers’ billing statement for the month, at the request of the health department. The letter informs customers about the elevated lead content, health effects of consuming lead, sources of lead, steps to reduce exposure to lead in water and information about what the service authority is doing about the issue.

The letter, dated Feb. 20, recommends that residents run their water for 15 to 30 seconds, or until it becomes cold, before using it for drinking or cooking, or especially for preparing baby formula. Boiling water does not remove or reduce lead, but alternative treatment of water, such as through an approved water filter, can help.

According to the letter, lead can enter the water just by sitting in pipes that contain lead. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have plumbing containing lead.

"When water is in contact with pipes [or service lines] or plumbing that contains lead for several hours, the lead may enter drinking water," the letter states.

The letter recommends the replacement of plumbing fixtures that contain lead as a way to reduce exposure.

Hight worried that consumers would assume that the elevated lead contents are associated with the service authority, which he said is not the case.

"It would be nice if the health department would recognize our water is lead-free," he said.

The letter states that lead levels in the early- to mid-1990s were elevated, but "decreased significantly" after the installation of corrosion control treatment.

Twice per year, the service authority takes water samples to monitor the lead and copper levels throughout distribution at Wintergreen, said Jennifer Tyree Fitzgerald, office manager for the service authority.

"We were in violation in both sampling periods for 2012 for lead," she said in an email to the Nelson County Times.

"Currently, [the service authority utilizes] pre-approved sites, which are all condominiums," Fitzgerald said. "We are trying to move toward having the sample sites at houses. The Virginia Department of Health in Lexington determines whether a site is suitable for sampling based on the criteria they have for lead and copper sampling sites."

The service authority has sent out a survey to 50 homeowners from all over the Wintergreen area to find suitable sites to sample.

Fitzgerald said 21 people have returned surveys so far, "but they may not all qualify for one reason or another." The surveys ask questions about what type of plumbing is inside the resident’s house, when the house was built, and whether the service authority can use the house as a sample site. The Virginia Department of Health will determine which sites are suitable for sampling, she said.