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Rutland, Vermont strives to improve drinking water supply for residents.

Preliminary results from Rutland [Vt.] City's household lead in drinking water testing program show that most city homes fall well within safe limits. Of 13 day-care providers and 57 high-risk private homes tested, all but three had lead levels below current federal limits.

As Rutland's Mayor, I believe the program is achieving its purpose. The tests have proven that even though our source water is safe, lead can get into our drinking water from the household plumbing. The only way to properly protect the public health is test for lead at the tap.

In 1991, I testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment on the issue of lead in drinking water as a member of NLC's Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Steering Committee.

Local interest in lead contamination arose as a result of changes in federal law. This summer, EPA will replace the current 50 parts per billion (ppb) lead limit with a more stringent 15 ppb "action level." If more than 10 percent of the highest-risk homes exceed the "action level," the municipality could be required to chemically treat its water to reduce corrosivity.

Last fall, the city identified fifty-seven homes that were most at-risk and conducted water sampling and testing as recommended by the federal government. In addition, the city offered free lead testing to the 63 state registered daycare and home-care providers operating in Rutland. Studies have shown that young children face the greatest risk of low-level lead poisoning.

I am concerned that the city might have to step up its contamination control program if the results don't improve. Rutland has done more to look for and eliminate lead contamination than nearly every other American community, but if further progress is not made, additional water treatment at the source may be required to meet the new federal standards. Such treatment might include controlling the water's acidity to reduce the amount of lead it can pick up while passing through residential plumbing. Rutland already treats its water to reduce corrosivity.

Program participants have or will soon receive a letter explaining the results and suggesting next steps, if any. All homes will be tested again this summer to double check results and note any changes.

Several of the homes tested had unusually high levels. Ruthland's Health and Public Works Departments will offer to inspect and test the internal plumbing of these homes and make recommendations for changes.

Twelve of the thirteen day-care providers tested were well within the EPA "action level," and all thirteen were safely within the current limit.
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Author:Wennberg, Jeffrey
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 4, 1992
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