Letter to BCWA Customers
Since the Flint, MI water system has been so prominently in the news regarding lead contamination of the water, the BCWA would like to let our customers know that our water is safe.
The BCWA tests for lead in the tap water in about 30 homes each year. Our results are well below the EPA “action level” of 15 parts per billion, with most of the samples reported with no detectable levels of lead.
Corrosive water can leach lead in household plumbing from lead service lines, lead-tin solder (used until 1986 in copper pipes), or from brass faucets. The BCWA obtains all of its water supply from Providence Water which treats the water to a pH of 10.3 to maintain an effective corrosion control.
In 2014 the City of Flint, MI switched to an old water supply (used for emergency back-up) to save money. The Flint River supply was of poor quality compared to the Great Lakes supply of treated water they had purchased from Detroit for 50 years. The City utilized a retired treatment plant, but did not add corrosion control to the highly corrosive water (to save money). The water corroded the iron pipes – resulting in rusty water, and dissolved other metals it contacted – such as lead from lead pipe services and household plumbing. The chlorine reacted with the iron in the water, so they lost disinfection resulting in bacteria growth, with a possible connection to several Legionnaire disease outbreaks.
This scenario cannot happen in the BCWA water system. To begin with, the water is well treated for corrosion control and is not reactive to pipe materials. Secondly, few lead services were installed in the BCWA water system, and have since been removed. Even so, the BCWA is on a constant look-out for any lead pipe on the homeowner’s side of the connection when we inspect or change meters. The Flint system appears to have numerous lead pipes from the main to the house.
The BCWA monitors the distribution system continuously for pH and disinfectant residual, and performs frequent analysis for bacteria, temperature, disinfectant levels, and pH throughout the system that can warn of any potential water quality problems.
The BCWA has been very pro-active in taking aggressive steps to protect water quality. In the previous three years the BCWA has added a disinfection control and monitoring station to our Providence supply; mixing systems in two water storage tanks, a disinfection byproduct removal treatment system at the Metacom tank; instituted an annual water main flushing program and a leak detection program; replaced or cleaned and lined 29,000 feet of water main; eliminated numerous dead-ends; installed a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system to monitor flows and pressures; and instituted a number of distribution system operations and maintenance programs.
For further information, please see our website at bcwari.com, or drinktap.org, or epa.gov/flint or call me at 245-2022.
Pamela Marchand, P.E.