Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:41 PM on Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Homer's water supply passes EPA's standards

Staff Writer

The city of Homer released its annual Water Quality Report last month for tests done in 2010. While city water supplies tested below the maximum contaminant levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency, some homes did test above the MCL for lead at water faucet taps inside the home.

"All water on the public portion has met all EPA requirements," said Homer Public Works Director Carey Meyer.

The source of the lead comes from older pipes and fixtures that used lead solder on copper plumbing.

"It's not our water. It's the fixtures in people's homes that are an issue," said Todd Cook, water treatment plant superintendent.

In 1986, Congress banned lead in plumbing materials, including solder. Because the amendment to the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act allowed suppliers to use banned plumbing fixtures until 1988, the EPA requires cities to test water in homes built between 1982 and 1988, the time period when solder with lead was most widely used. Prior water quality testing in Homer found lead in amounts that exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 15 parts per billion, and the EPA requires the city of Homer is to sample 40 homes built in that era. In all, the city took 67 samples, Meyer said. Results ranged from 0.171 to 60.4 ppb, according to the report.

The EPA requires cities to lower the pH, or degree of acidity, in water, Meyer said. Water that is less acidic reduces the amount of lead leached from private plumbing. Excess lead in drinking water is of most concern to infants and children. Lead can cause physical and mental delays in child development. Adults who drink lead-contaminated water over time could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure, according to the city's report. Because the best available science shows there is no safe level of exposure for lead, the EPA has set is maximum contaminant level goal for lead as 0.

To mitigate lead in water, Cook suggested the EPA's recommendation of using only cold tap water. On its website, the EPA recommends using water from cold taps and flushing water that has been in taps not used for six hours or longer by running the water until it runs as cold as possible.

"If you flush it, you can be pretty confident it will minimize health effects," Cook said.

The city pays homeowners who agree to testing a $10 credit on water bills, Meyer said. Homeowners get results of testing, and those customers whose test exceeded the MCLs were notified.

The 4-page report was mailed last month to all water customers in the city. Cook prepared the report. Though some samples exceeded the maximum contaminant levels, Meyer said no home routinely exceeded those levels.

As part of its water quality monitoring, the city tests for volatile organic, radioactive, microbiological and inorganic contaminants. Results of the 2010 testing are available on the city's website at publicworks.ci.homer.ak.us. For more information on lead in drinking water, visit the EPA's website at water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/lead.cfm

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.