After recent lead and copper testing of Frisco’s water, Frisco’s Water Division was informed by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment that there were lead levels in exceedance of the maximum allowable limit in the provided samples, as six 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). During testing for lead and copper levels in the first half of 2018, samples from 40 homes/buildings (37 of these samples were from the same locations as later tests) were not found in aggregate to be in exceedance of maximum allowable limits of lead.
Water Source Testing
Frisco has four water sources and testing conducted in January 2019 has found that three of Frisco’s water sources have 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). This means that elevated lead levels are not coming from Frisco’s water at the source.
School and Daycare Testing
Out of an abundance of caution, the Town of Frisco’s Water Division contacted and offered to test the drinking water at Summit Middle School, Frisco Elementary, The Peak School, Summit County Preschool and at the two registered private in-home daycare facilities in Frisco. Everyone provided samples, except for one in-home daycare. This testing was not required, but the Town of Frisco took this step to express the Town’s commitment to safe drinking water and reinforce the integrity that users have come to expect in Frisco’s water.
“I have confidence in Frisco’s water, and this testing has shown me that this confidence is justified. The changes to the lead and copper testing schedule and sampling pool is mandated nationally and is certainly justifiable, as it is in response to situations in communities where lead levels were alarmingly high, even at the water source, and were not discovered until damage had been done. Frisco is fortunate to have high quality water sources, that do not have elevated lead levels, but testing for lead and copper in drinking water is really unique, because it is typically done by the homeowner, and the results are impacted by their adherence to the sampling guidelines and the condition of the home’s plumbing. There were 34 homes that were below 15 ppb, so now we need to work to understand what is impacting lead levels in those other six homes,” stated Jeff Goble, Frisco Public Works Director/Water Superintendent.
“That said, we wanted to go above and beyond what was required to understand even more of the picture, so we decided to test in local schools and daycares. It was the right thing to do. That is what transparent and principled water providers should do, and we are committed to always taking that approach so our customers know that we have confidence in the water we provide to our community.”
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.
As of 2018 in a water service area of Frisco’s size, 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 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 1982 and 1988 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 samples must be cold water 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.
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.
- The Town of Frisco has six months to re-test the 40 homes/buildings. As of February 5, 2019, 13 sites have re-submitted samples. Residents typically collect their own samples in their homes, and sample collection scheduling is challenging due to the prevalence of second homes 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.
- Source water is also being tested concurrently and evaluated to determine if it is “aggressive” or showing corrosive properties. Once all testing and re-testing concludes, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment will determine whether prescriptive measures need to be taken in Frisco.
- The Town of Frisco is embarking on a public information and education campaign to ensure that awareness of testing outcomes and next steps are transparent, well publicized and understood. This outreach includes, but is not limited to residents, schools, daycares and healthcare providers.