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Water quality, a popular political issue discussed everywhere from town hall meetings to PTA meetings to HOA meetings, are serious, modern-day threats to everyone’s drinking tap water in the U.S. Homeowners want their voices heard and concerns put to bed. So, give them what they want: answers and solutions.
Professionals in the plumbing industry should proactively explain to clients that just because the water is clear, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. Just because their house is new, doesn’t mean the water isn’t tainted with toxins. Testing the water quality at the tap is imperative. By educating your clients, you are helping them and the rest of our country.
Understanding these things is important for the general public, because it helps protect them from dangerous contaminants in tap water and prevents them from making poor plumbing decisions, but also because they are already concerned. Various nationwide polls have shown a rapid increase in Americans who are increasingly worried about their water quality throughout the past decade. According to a national survey conducted in March 2016, 18 percent of those surveyed said they are not at all confident that their tap water was safe for consumption, and more than half of respondents said they feel lead leaching into drinking water is a widespread, national problem.
There are reasons for their concerns. And there are substantiated reasons for them to distrust water utility companies.
A Guardian investigation in 2016 revealed that at least 33 U.S. cities cheated on their water testing performances/methods, potentially concealing high lead levels. A year ago, the EPA announced that 41 states had reported “higher than acceptable levels of lead in drinking water” in the previous three years. There also is more recent news that small water utilities companies do not have federal or state regulations to force them to test their water for lead or even to remedy the situation after lead leaching is found.
There has been an onslaught of disparaging news in regards to water quality, public trust in water agencies. Americans have to face that the unfortunate situation of high lead levels in Flint, Michigan, could happen in their home town. Thus, concern for the quality of tap water has been on the rise.
The reality is that around 20 million Americans or more are drinking lead contaminated tap water, which can lead to health and cognitive problems, especially for children. As plumbing professionals, you have the ability to coax their worries by offering education, effective remedies and proactive solutions.
However, it is even more significant that plumbers are properly trained and educated about how and why lead leaching is a problem, as well as how to safely and economically bring lead leaching down to safe levels.
Under present EPA rules, utilities only have to test homes at the tap every three years, and these tests often involve very few homes. For example, Flint, Michigan had water tests conducted in 2014, but only 100 homes were tested. The water quality review passed, meaning that lead and other toxin levels were calculated as safe and no additional testing in homes was required. Yet in 2015, Flint was going through a catastrophic lead leaching crisis. In Baltimore, Maryland, a water quality report for 2015 shows the water utility tested the water of only 52 homes, although the city had more than 621,000 residents that year.
The only way a homeowner, landlord or property manager can reassure themselves that the water is safe for consumption is to have the water independently tested, then to take remedial action as required as it relates to their property to become lead-compliant.
Even if the domestic water transported from a treatment plant to a building or home meets the EPA guidelines for safe traces of hazardous materials inside the water, lead contributors on the private-side (such as the branch line from the main and the plumbing system inside a building or house) can easily escalate lead and other toxic levels, making the water dangerous for consumption. Buildings built before the mid-1990s are the most susceptible to having plumbing systems with lead contributors.
Other common types of water quality issues, other than lead leaching:
While the water companies and municipalities are left with the burden of removing lead water mains and other lead contributors in their public water infrastructure systems, plumbers must focus on private-side lead contributors. These include, but aren’t limited to lead pipes, lead solder (often with copper pipes), galvanized pipes, brass faucets, brass valves and brass fixtures. Even a piping system containing lead solder can raise lead levels up to 60 times the legally safe limit. All types of lead contributors must be removed or relined.
Adding chemical treatments to the drinking water or removing plumbing components that have lead contributors may create an adverse reaction by increasing the amount of lead leached into the water. So, what’s the best solution to lowering lead leaching to safe levels?
The answer is pipe lining.
A new study from The Water Research Foundation has found that certain pipe lining processes, such as epoxy pipe coating technologies, “can effectively reduce or eliminate release of lead from lead service lines.” The study also found that benefits for epoxy coatings include fewer and shorter disruptions to the structure or surrounding area, reduced damage and cost-effectiveness, when compared to pipe system replacement.
Utility companies have already begun taking advantage of epoxy coating technology to rehabilitate pipes in place with minimal to no street, sidewalk or parking disruptions or destruction. Last summer, a world-leading epoxy coating technology manufacturer and installer worked with Providence Water in Rhode Island, to deliver the country’s very first same-day lead service line remediation project that used modern technology.
In this project, the lead service lines that ran from the city main to private houses in Providence, Rhode Island were cleaned and relined using a patented epoxy coating process that has multiple patents for reducing lead leaching. These lead service lines leached lead, making the water harmful for consumption by the residents. Providence Water did not want to disrupt or destroy the century-old houses or the historical trees in their yards, which is exactly what would happen during a traditional repipe. Thanks to the epoxy coating applications provided to the lead service lines, none of the houses or trees were disturbed or damaged, and independent water tests revealed that the epoxy coating brought lead levels to less than 1ppb (which is well below the EPA cutoff level of 15ppb), making the project a huge success and garnering the immediate attention of other utility agencies and water organizations.
Epoxy coating technologies are currently being utilized by cities and school districts in the United States (as well as the UK and other countries) as an economical solution to bring lead leaching into compliance. It’s time residential and commercial plumbers, like yourself, follow suit and offer the solution your customers are all searching for: a way to make their water safe for consumption.
Amanda Strouse is on the marketing and public relations team for world-leading pipe lining technology innovator, ACE DuraFlo, the creator of the patented ePIPE product and worldwide group of installers that utilize the patented ePIPE process to restore pipes in-place. ACE DuraFlo’s revolutionary epoxy coating system, ePIPE, is the industry’s fastest curing epoxy coating, with a cure time of two hours. The LeadSmart program was developed in response to growing consumer demand over lead when tested at the tap, the potential liability for landlords and disclosure of lead. This program involves EPA-approved on-site testing, identification of lead contributors, a remedy plan consisting of the ePIPE technology and, once compliant, a property owner is issued a LeadSmart Certificate of Compliance, backed by a $1 million errors and omission insurance program. ePIPE products are engineered to exceed EU and North American standards. For more information, contact us at www.epipeinfo.com or 800-359-6369.