Lead In Well Water

Posted July 7th, 2020

Study: Kids Who Drink Well Water At Higher Risk For Lead Exposure


by Rebecca Thiele

Gazette Introductory Note:  Lead contamination of city water is constantly in the news, but we seldom concern ourselves about lead it well water. Lead in well water comes from the same place as lead in city water: corrosion of pipes and appliances. The piece below should make us consider that wells should be tested routinely for lead and that lead-removing drinking water systems, like reverse osmosis, should be part of every home with well water.


Corrosion control: New pipe on the right, untreated pipe in the center, pipe treated for corrosion control on the left. 

There’s been a big push to reduce lead in drinking water around the country. But few of those efforts have been focused on private wells — where about a quarter of all Hoosiers get their water.

new study shows kids who drink well water are more likely to get exposed to lead. Children in North Carolina whose homes had private wells were about 25 percent more likely to have high levels of lead in their blood than those who had city water.

Jackie MacDonald Gibson co-authored the study and chairs the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Indiana University.

“Most people who get their water from a private well don’t test their water quality on a regular basis — and so they may be drinking contaminated water and not even be aware of it,” she said.

Gibson said some well owners may not be able to afford a test or upgrades to their water system. Like public water systems, the study said a lot of lead contamination comes from lead pipes and a lack of corrosion control.

Because rural areas tend to rely on private wells, she said kids in those areas tend to be at a higher risk for lead exposure. But the study also showed there was a higher risk for children who were Black, low-income, or lived just outside city limits.

Garry Holland is the education chair for the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP — which has been advocating for state laws to address lead in drinking water. He said gentrification has pushed more African American families outside the Indianapolis city limits.

“When you look at the outskirts in any city, one has to begin the planning or research to see what industrial complexes were out in those areas that may have dumped contamination into the soil,” Holland said.

Kids with lead poisoning can have trouble learning, behavioral issues, and poor kidney function. Holland said no matter if the water comes from a private well or a city water system — Indiana needs to do a better job to protect its children.

Among other things, the study said there should be more federal funding to help well owners and laws to ensure all new wells are lead free.


Source: WFYI (Indiana Public Radio)

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