Avoiding Lead Contamination in Water

Public water supply systems have been involved in monitoring water within households since the implementation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule in the early 1990s. Lead is rarely present in drinking water at its source (groundwater or rivers).  Instead, it works its way into water through connections, plumbing and fixtures – containing lead – on the way to the faucet.

While Anoka County (and Minnesota) communities have had relatively few issues with lead contamination, a number of U.S. cities have had prominent lead contamination problems in recent years.

Problems Elsewhere. A change in chemical treatment had a major effect in Washington, D. C., in the early 2000s, causing corrosion in pipes and the subsequent discovery of lead levels in the city residents’ drinking water.  In 2014 the City of Flint, Michigan, temporarily switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River.  Flint treated the river water to make it safe, but the water reaching people’s homes was corrosive.  Corrosive water can dissolve lead from plumbing significantly raising lead levels in the water that people drink.

The Situation in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health – Drinking Water Protection engineers review the plans for treating the water and also examine corrosion-control methods that could be necessary to ensure that the water does not absorb materials such as lead and copper from pipes in the distribution system. The public water monitoring system permits prompt response to drinking water quality issues.  The Health Department is able to see water sample results before public water systems do. This method allows for another early-warning system for contaminants in drinking water.

The Situation for Private Well Owners. Anoka County Environmental Services provides water testing services to private well owners. In addition to the annual recommended testing (for total coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen) residents may test their water supply for lead. For more information and instructions to test private well water, contact Environmental Services at 763-422-7063.

The Situation for Anoka County Municipal Water Users. Anoka County Municipal water suppliers share water testing results with residents through an Annual Report. For more information contacts your municipal water supplier.

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