As part of Indiana state and federal EPA requirements, Peru Utilities has reported that lead was found during routine water testing.  The level, in 4 of the 30 test results, was above the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb (parts per billion).

We spoke with Mike Dahlquist, Peru Water Department Superintendent and Randy Kline, Peru Water Department Assistant Superintendent, to find out what the results were and how it affects everyone.

Our first question was whether anyone was in any immediate danger.  Dahlquist said, “The simple answer to that question is no.”  Dahlquist continued, “Really what we’re trying to do is educate the public.  That’s really the requirement of the EPA and IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management).  The value is a little elevated, there are some precautions you can take and you need to be aware.”  More testing is required.

Testing Procedures
Every three years Peru Utilities is required to test the water for lead and copper at the point of use of 30 different customers.  These customers must not have water softeners or water filtration systems as they can interfere with the test results.  Test samples are sent to a lab, the results returned to the utility and customers are informed of their result.

The EPA has set a value of 15 ppb as the action level for lead.  Of the 30 samples taken, the value that falls on the 90th percentile is the single result used to determine compliancy.  This is similar to the way the highest and lowest values are removed in other systems to determine a score.

In any sample group of 30 members, the 4th highest result is the 90th percentile.  In this round of testing that result was 18 ppb.  There were three higher results of 18.3 ppb, 20.6 ppb, and 25 ppb.  Of the lower results, all were below the 15 ppb mark and many were either 5 ppb or below the meter’s ability to measure it at all.

We asked what the likelihood was of the lead coming from one of the Utility’s wells.  “I would say there’s a very remote possibility, “Dahlquist responded.  “But until I have sample evidence of that I can’t say unequivocally that isn’t the case.”

Next Steps
The first step required is for Peru Utilities to inform customers of the test results and advise them about the dangers of lead and precautions they can take.  You can find their full statement on their website HERE to find out what the dangers are and who is most at risk.

The two major concerns are lead used in pipefitting at the home and buildup in your hot water heater.  If you’re concerned about lead content or if you have old pipes in your home you should allow the cold water to run from your tap for 15-30 seconds before using it.  This allows any lead that has been absorbed into the water from pipes or fittings to be flushed.

You also shouldn’t draw hot water from the tap to use for cooking.  Lead is more difficult to flush from the hot water heater since it has more volume than the pipes and hot water can dissolve lead more rapidly than cold water.

Further Testing
Additional testing is also being done to assess the situation.  The water has been tested at the four source wells and sent for testing and the results are expected to be back by the end of November.  Additionally, test have been done at 10 points throughout the distribution system to check for alkalinity, calcium and conductivity.

These tests will determine the corrosiveness of the water and help determine if that could be a contributing factor to the water absorbing lead from a customer’s line(s) in their home.  These same tests will be repeated on November 19th just to be sure.

By the end of this year Peru Utilities will provide a complete report of all test findings to IDEM.

Because a result above 15 ppb was found in the 90th percentile, 60 homes will be tested next fall and again in the spring of 2015 for lead and copper.

“That, to me,“ said Dahlquist, “is a feather in the cap of all the regulatory people because we are required to do so much testing.

Worst Case Scenario
While unlikely to be required, Dahlquist reports Peru Utilities already has a plan in place should a problem be found with any of the wells.  “We might be able to introduce chemicals at the treatment plant that would sequester the metals and remove them from the process.  If the values are too high we might have to abandon a well.”  “But the nice thing here in Peru is,” continued Dahlquist, “that we already have a well casing on stand-by.”

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