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AWWA ANNOUNCES EIGHTY PERCENT OF WATER UTILITIES FALL WITHIN SAFETY STANDARDS FOR LEAD

 AWWA ANNOUNCES EIGHTY PERCENT OF WATER UTILITIES
 FALL WITHIN SAFETY STANDARDS FOR LEAD
 DENVER, Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Eighty percent of major United States water utilities reporting water tests required by a new lead rule fall well below the lead safety standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), according to an independent study conducted by the American Water Works Association (AWWA).
 USEPA's most recent lead rule required utilities serving more than 50,000 customers to test water at the tap for lead and submit results to the agency by last July.
 Of the 377 utilities reporting results in the AWWA study, 302, or 80 percent, found water samples were lower than the USEPA action level of 15 parts per billion. Seventy-five cities, or 20 percent, showed that certain homes had lead levels in water above the action level.
 In addition, 40 percent reported that most of their samples had lead levels below the smallest detectable unit of five parts per billion.
 "This report is good news for most major cities in the country, but we share the concern of those cities whose tests came in higher than the USEPA's action level," said AWWA President Foster Burba. "Water suppliers will do everything possible to help protect consumers in those communities."
 Lead can produce negative health effects in young children, including altered physical and mental development, growth retardation and reduced attention span. It has also been linked to higher blood pressure in adults. Approximately 10-20 percent of human lead ingestion is thought to come from drinking water; most exposure comes from other sources.
 One source of lead in drinking water is lead service lines. Some United States cities installed lead water lines prior to the 1930s long before lead was identified as a health hazard. Before the '70s and '80s, when lead products were outlawed, the material was also used in many other substances including solder to join water pipes, paint, gasoline and food cans.
 Lead in drinking water most often is the result of lead leaching from water pipes or lead solder in household plumbing. Because residential plumbing fixtures and pipes vary so widely, lead concentrations in water many also vary substantially from house to house within the same community. For instance, Charleston, S.C., the community reporting the highest lead levels in water in the AWWA study, had household water samples that varied between less than five parts per billion to 675 parts per billion.
 Water suppliers, the USEPA and the AWWA encourage individuals to have their water tested for lead, especially households with pregnant women or young children, because levels vary so widely. Both groups also recommend running water taps for at least 15 to 30 seconds before drinking and never using hot tap water for cooking or baby formula.
 Water providers are working to protect consumers in communities exceeding the lead action level. Major strides are being made to test and implement anti-corrosion procedures that reduce the amount of lead leached from pipes or solder. Corrosion control prevents lead leaching by using harmless chemicals. However, the treatment needed may vary greatly between cities because of differing water chemistry and other factors.
 "Utilities must carefully test these chemicals in their own systems to ensure that they are effective and do not counteract other processes that rid water of harmful bacteria. Finding the right corrosion-control chemicals for a particular system is a complex process and requires extensive study," Burba said.
 During the past several years, the AWWA Research Foundation has spent more than $1 million to fund corrosion prevention studies for utilities across the country.
 New York, which found lead levels above the action level in some residences, is conducting studies to find the most effective concentration of calcium orthophosphate, an agent that coats lead pipes and reduces lead leaching, for its water system. Philadelphia and Cleveland, which also reported lead problems in some residential water, are looking to add zinc orthophosphate, another coating agent, to their systems.
 Some communities have started, or are considering, non-chemical options to reduce lead. United States water suppliers have been voluntarily removing lead service lines at the rate of 61,000 per year. For example, Phoenix, Ariz., has replaced nearly all of its lead service lines that connect water mains to homes. Cleveland and Portland, Ore., have been replacing lead service connectors for years, and Portland anticipates completing its program by year end. Portland is also studying a proposal to remove lead-containing brass fixtures from customer homes.
 "Water providers are not only attacking the problem with technical solutions, they are also making sure the public is informed about ways to reduce or eliminate lead in their water," Burba said.
 Major cities such as Philadelphia have alerted the public through local media, sent brochures to their customers and to facilities serving pregnant women and children, and have even used paid advertising to tell their customers how to avoid lead exposure. Portland and New York, for example, are also offering free water tests to their customers.
 Although most water providers have been able to do all the work necessary to follow procedures for the lead regulation, some missed the deadline for reporting their results to the USEPA.
 "AWWA is urging all water suppliers to comply scrupulously with the lead regulations," Burba explained, "and we are backing that up with training programs for utility personnel, educational materials for the public and other support services.
 "It's unfortunate that society didn't realize lead was a harmful agent and that it was used in so many household products," said Burba. "Water suppliers have launched an attack on lead in drinking water and are committed to protecting the public from this source of exposure."
 The AWWA is the world's largest organization for water supply professionals. Its more than 54,000 members are dedicated to providing safe drinking water to the public. Through educational programs and scientific and technical information on improving the quality of drinking water, AWWA works for the health and welfare of the public.
 -0- 10/19/92
 /CONTACT: Joan Dent or Paul Jonas of American Water Works Association, 303-794-7711/ CO: American Water Works Association; U.S. Environmental Protection
 Agency ST: Colorado IN: SU:


BB -- DV002 -- 1699 10/19/92 14:19 EDT
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Date:Oct 19, 1992
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