In March, the Environmental Protection Agency revised its Lead and Copper Rule that strengthens regulations for eliminating lead from drinking water.
The new requirements mandates, among other things, that water utilities nationwide increase tap water testing, and that they create a service line inventory to check for the presence of lead pipes in water systems, private home plumbing and in elementary schools and daycares.
Asheville Water Resources will step up monitoring water service lines in its distribution system as part of these rule revisions. The City of Asheville has monitored its system for lead and copper by random sampling since 1997 and never found a significant issue. The City has always exceeded EPA standards for metal sampling. These metals are typically found in older water systems installed in northern cities. However, as a best practice, Water Resources does treat drinking water to reduce corrosion in water lines and household plumbing.
Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys in adults. In children under 7, it can slow development, potentially causing learning problems. For this reason, use of lead-containing solder, service lines, and plumbing components were banned in the U.S. in 1986; however, they remain in portions of the country’s drinking water infrastructure, which largely pre-dates the ban.
To comply with the new rules, the City has retained 120Water Audit Inc. which offers a database probability finder to ensure that Water Resources successfully executes a multi-year compliance process.
“Asheville has been proactively anticipating the revised Lead and Copper Rule mandates and now that the rule is finalized we are excited to leverage the 120Water digital water solution to speed compliance and tackle multi-year challenges,” said Water Resources Director David Melton. “Our goal is to provide unprecedented transparency into the effort for our water customers.”
The City’s compliance effort will focus on three areas:
Lead service line inventory — The revised Lead and Copper Rule requires all water providers to have an updated and dynamic lead service line inventory map and a plan to replace lead service lines. Using 120Water’s cloud-based platform and Lead Service Line Probability Finder, Asheville is developing a comprehensive inventory of service line connections and materials, which allows the City to plan for service line replacements. 120Water also provides water sampling services as well as communication to meet the new requirement to notify customers of exceedances within 24-72 hours, depending on the lead level in the drinking water.
School and daycare lead fixture inventory and tap water sampling — The new Lead and Copper Rule rule requires lead testing in elementary schools and daycares, a completely new responsibility for the City of Asheville. The requirement mandates that systems test 20 percent of elementary schools and daycares in their community each year. 120Water’s platform allows for a centralized location for the data, down to the fixture level in every school. The easy-to-use application allows facility staff to map fixtures and collect samples on-the-go, with data rolling up into a Public Transparency Dashboard that keeps parents and anyone else who wishes to access the information about the testing status and results.
2021 drinking water sampling — The new rule makes drinking water sampling more reliable by requiring water systems to follow improved sampling procedures and better target sampling sites. The City of Asheville has a goal of collecting 50 tap water samples each year and reporting on the data collected. This is a time-consuming effort that requires staff to manually drop off sample bottles, educate residents about the proper way to fill the bottle, then pick up the sample. 120Water will streamline Asheville’s 2021 compliance effort by automating sample kit delivery and resident education, and centralizing data management and workflows. Under the new rule, water systems are required to find and fix sources of lead should a sample in a home exceed 15 parts per billion (ppb).
“We want to assure everyone that the Asheville Water Resources has not only monitored for the presence of copper and lead in our system in the past, with these new EPA rules we have an opportunity to help homeowners identify whether these metals are present in their home plumbing system,” said Melton.
As part of this initiative, database probability findings will help identify neighborhoods in which lead or copper may have been used in home plumbing pipes or soldering in the past.
Home testing kits will be available upon request, as they always have been. The City also asks homeowners in any areas identified by the database to cooperate with home testing if requested.
For more information, including an FAQ, and to stay informed about the City of Asheville’s compliance with the EPA’s revised Lead and Copper Rule visit, https://www.ashevillenc.gov/department/water/lead-and-copper-sampling-and-testing.
For questions, please email LeadPrevention@ashevillenc.gov or call 828-259-5962.