After recent routine lead and copper testing of Frisco’s water, Frisco’s Water Division was informed by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) that there were lead levels in exceedance of the maximum allowable limit, as five (5) homes/buildings out of 40 homes/buildings tested in Frisco were found to have lead levels at or in exceedance of 15 parts per billion (ppb). In early 2019, lead levels were also found in exceedance of maximum allowable levels, as six (6) homes/buildings out of 40 sampled were found in exceedance. All subsequent testing in 2019 did not indicate lead levels in exceedance of the maximum allowable limit for Frisco’s water system.
2019 Lead Levels
Due to the exceedance in 2019, Frisco tested its four (4) water sources and testing found that three of Frisco’s water sources had lead levels registering at below detectable levels (BDL). The fourth source of Frisco’s water tested at 1 part per billion (ppb). The maximum allowable level is 15 parts per billion (ppb). These results therefore indicated that Frisco’s water sources were not the cause of the elevated lead levels in the six (6) homes found in exceedance in 2019. Subsequently in June 2019, Frisco Town Council approved the Start at the Tap fixture rebate program to encourage the replacement of old fixtures which might contain lead. Frisco’s water sources have once again been tested for lead and Copper, and the Town of Frisco is currently awaiting those results.
Maximum Allowable Levels of Lead in Drinking Water
In 1991, the maximum allowable lead levels in drinking water went from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 15 (ppb), measured at the tap. One part per billion equals 1 microgram per liter and is akin to one grain of sand in a child’s sandbox or one second in 32 years.
Starting in 2018 in a water service area the size of Frisco’s, 40 homes/buildings must be tested every six months, as opposed to the previous requirement to test in 10 homes/buildings every three years.
In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that water should be checked in homes/buildings, rather than just at the source water location, because the presence of lead in water typically comes from the corrosion of household plumbing materials. Lead solder was used in household plumbing until 1987 so regulations require that homes/buildings constructed between 1983 and1987 should be used as sample sites. Frisco’s water main lines are made of ductile iron, and all service lines from the main line to individual homes are copper or galvanized.
Most home/building homeowners or residents collect their own samples to provide to water suppliers, after receiving sampling instructions. Instructions include that water samples must be cold and come from an inside faucet that is used regularly for drinking water, but that has not been used in the previous six hours at a minimum. The faucets, where samples are collected, also may not be connected to any type of personal water treatment source.
Town of Frisco Next Steps
- The Town of Frisco has six months to re-test the 40 homes/buildings. Residents typically collect their own samples in their homes, and sample collection scheduling is challenging due to the prevalence of second homes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the individual schedules of residents. Residents are informed of their individual testing results within 30 days of the Town of Frisco receiving the results.
- The Town will be moving forward with the prescriptive measures that were recommended in a study performed by Alan Plummer Associates, environmental engineers and scientists. This study and the subsequent plans were required due to the exceedance of maximum allowable levels of lead in 2019 but the implementation of the plan was triggered by the current exceedance.The Town will be installing a pH adjustment system at all of the source water locations, which will adjust pH into a more balanced and neutral range. The Town of Frisco’s 2019 water quality parameter data shows a range of; pH Low 6.97, pH High 7.41 with an average of 7.14 pH. Adjusting the pH to a more neutral range (7) is intended to prevent the dissolution of lead from piping and plumbing materials in homes and buildings with older fixtures and pipes.The deadline for having treatment in place is August 29, 2021. The Town Water Division is working on the design phase right now for each of the four water facilities, and don’t have a construction schedule yet.
- The Town will continue with the Start at the Tap fixture rebate program started implemented in July 2019 to replace old fixtures in Frisco homes and buildings with WaterSense approved fixtures, which are more efficient and lead free. In 2019, Frisco’s Start at the Tap rebate program assisted in the replacement of 65 old fixtures with $6,234.43 in rebates saving 188,300 gallons of water annually and potentially removing the source of lead in Frisco homes and buildings. More information on this program may be found at FriscoWater.com.
- The Town of Frisco has embarked on a second public information and education campaign to ensure that awareness of testing outcomes and next steps are transparent, well publicized, and understood.
Health Impacts of Lead
High levels of lead in drinking water can cause health effects if the lead in the water enters the bloodstream and causes an elevated blood lead level. Lead builds up in the body over time, so ongoing exposure, even at low levels, may eventually cause health effects. Infants and children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of lead because their bodies absorb lead at higher rates than the average adult. Exposure to lead can result in:
- Delays in children’s physical or mental development
- Decreased IQ in children
- Kidney problems
- High blood pressure in adults
- Lower birth weight infants
Strategies to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Water
- It is recommended that water users run their water to flush out lead. If it hasn’t been used for several hours, cold tap water should be run until the temperature is noticeably colder. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes. To conserve water, remember to catch the flushed tap water for plants or some other household use (e.g. cleaning).
- Cold water only should be used for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula.
Boiling water will not remove lead.
- A faucet’s strainer/aerator should periodically be removed and cleaned, and while removed, water should remain running to remove debris.
- Water users can test a home’s water for lead, and a list of certified laboratories is provided at colorado.gov/cdphe/dwlabs.
- More information about Frisco water may be found at on Frisco’s water website pages.
- Customer inquiries may be directed to Ryan Thompson, Water Foreman at 970-668-9156 or RyanT@TownofFrisco.com.
- More information on reducing lead exposure around homes and on the health effects of lead may be found at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at EPA.gov/lead.