DENVER (AP) – About two dozen Colorado water systems have reported lead levels that exceed federal guidelines, but officials say the lead usually comes from pipes in older buildings and isn’t in the water supply itself.
An Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data found that nationwide, nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans have exceeded the federal lead standard at least once between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015. They include 278 systems that are owned and operated by schools and day care centers in 41 states.
In Colorado, 22 or 23 water systems reported lead levels that require them to take further steps, said Ron Falco, manager of the state Safe Drinking Water Program.
Lead problems have been detected in Colorado water systems serving a combined population of about 45,000, according to federal data, although a handful of systems serving about 9,000 people said the levels listed for their operations in the EPA data was incorrect.
While no amount of lead exposure is considered safe, an EPA rule calls for water systems to keep levels below 15 parts per billion.
If more than 10 percent of the samples are above that level, water providers must inform customers about the problem and increase water sampling. In some cases, they must take steps such as adding chemicals to control corrosion and prevent leaching of the lead.
Lead problems are less extensive in Colorado than in other areas because many of the state’s homes are new – built to house its booming population – and don’t use lead in their pipes, Falco said.
The town of Firestone reported a lead level of 34 parts per billion in 2015, according to the EPA data. The town said 11 older homes had lead in their water exceeding the federal standard.
Firestone’s supplier, Central Weld County Water District, began adding a corrosion-control chemical to the water in October, and the number of homes in which lead was found in the water dropped to six, Mayor Paul Sorensen said in a statement.
“It is our hope that this additive to our water supply will continue to reduce the lead levels inside these older homes,” he said.
A few small Colorado schools with their own water systems also reported lead levels above 15 parts per billion.
The Valley School District in northeastern Colorado has filtered water delivered to the Caliche school in Iliff. The building, which houses elementary and high schools, reported lead levels from 16 to 20 parts per billion in 2014 and 2015, according to the EPA.
The school district expects to start construction this summer on a new water treatment system for the school, Superintendent Jan DeLay said.
– By DAN ELLIOTT, AP Writer
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