Brick residents sound off on lead in their water
by Kevin Pentón
Gazette Introductory Note: The lead issue at Brick, New Jersey illustrates a common problem for which “authorities” draw some unrealistic conclusions. The advice to run water for 30 seconds before drinking isn’t really a sustainable alternative to proper treatment for lead. This is clearly a case where “point of use” treatment is the sensible solution. The Clean Water Action official’s advice that “most filters on the market won’t properly exclude lead” is essentially true, but what should be added is that many filters, even some very inexpensive ones, do effectively reduce lead. Reverse osmosis removes lead by its nature, and inexpensive carbon filters can be engineered to remove lead effectively. It certainly makes a lot more sense to use a “final barrier” drinking water treatment than to continually test your water for lead and scores of other possible contaminants or to trust your fate to running the water for 30 seconds before every glass of water.–Hardly Waite.
BRICK – Township residents are concerned over a recent report that elevated lead levels were found in the water of nearly half the homes tested this summer.
After reading the initial Asbury Park Press story on the issue, resident Michele Richards said she went out and spent over $10 on a lead test. Afterwards, she said she learned she would need to spend at least $30 so a laboratory can analyze the results.
“I pay enough taxes as it is,” Richards said. “I don’t feel like I should have to pay to test my drinking water.”
Water in 16 of the 34 homes tested this summer by the Brick Municipal Utilities Authority was found to have more lead than the maximum amount allowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
At least one home was found to have a lead level of 184.5 parts per billion, more than 12 times the FDA’s cap of 15 ppb.
State and local officials believe the source of the contamination is the pipes and solder inside residents’ homes, not the drinking water supplied by the authority to approximately 38,000 connections.
If the water was coming into homes dirty, then perhaps the authority or the township might have more of a responsibility to pay for individual lead tests, Mayor John Ducey said.
“Unfortunately, the problem is coming from inside residents’ homes,” Ducey said. “It doesn’t make any sense for the town to pay.”
Three years ago, the last time the authority tested for lead, it found three homes with levels above 15 ppb, according to its report.
One theory floated by the authority is that with superstorm Sandy forcing many people out of their homes and not subsequently running their household pipes, the underutilized water supply’s acidity levels may have increased near the ends of the system. The more acidic water would have then been more prone to eat away at the pipes and solder, releasing the lead.
On the Asbury Park Press’ Facebook page, Brick residents lamented the news and wondered aloud whether to buy filters or bottled water to be safe.
Most filters available on the market will not properly exclude lead from the water, said Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey director of Clean Water Action.
“Filters give people a false sense of security,” Goldsmith said. “Most filters don’t really work for lead.”
Boiling the water could actually make the problem worse, Goldsmith said. Heat will not cause lead, a metal, to vaporize or otherwise leave the water inside a kettle or pot, she said.
Boiling will cause some of the water to evaporate, leaving an even more lead-laden liquid, Goldsmith said.
“The best, easiest method is what Brick is advising residents to do, which is to run their pipes in the morning or after any other period when the water in the house has not been used,” Goldsmith said.
The authority, which had already begun to add a corrosion inhibitor to its water supply, is now expected to test every six months until the problem is remedied, according to the DEP.
Authority officials could not be reached for comment on whether they will consider paying for residents to test their water for lead.
“I don’t think the residents are getting the help that they need here from the town,” Richards said. “They’re just doing the minimum that they have to do.”