City warns 8 homes of too-high lead levels

November 10, 2018

Fort Wayne City Utilities has notified eight homes where water samples show high lead levels.

The lead is from the homes’ service lines or plumbing fixtures and is not from city water provided by the Three Rivers Water Filtration Plant, city officials said Friday. The homes are out of 70 tested throughout the city.

The city tests drinking water annually and finds a certain amount of lead, said Vicky Zehr, water quality supervisor at the filtration plant. Fifty samples a year are required by federal regulators, and 90 percent must test under 15 parts per billion for lead, she said. This year the city was one sample over compliance.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been notified. The eight homes were informed within 24 hours and given ways to reduce lead, Zehr said. All City Utilities customers will be mailed information about lead paint, lead-contaminated soil and dust, and lead in drinking water.

The water leaving the filtration plant comes from the St. Joe River and is tested weekly for lead, which does not occur naturally in rivers, Zehr said.

“When we treat it, you really don’t have to remove any lead, because there’s no lead in it,” she said. “But what we do do is treat that water so as it’s not corrosive. We are experts at it. We have been doing it for a long time. And everyday we prove in testing our water is not corrosive. So when we send that out to you, you should have peace of mind. But if you have lead pipes in your home there’s really nothing much we can do. We can’t force the homeowner to change their pipes, but we can educate them in how to reduce their exposure.”

The eight homes with high lead levels were built before 1986, when Congress banned the use of solder containing greater than 0.2 percent lead, according to a city news release.

The lead content of faucets, pipes, and other plumbing materials inside homes was restricted to 8.0 percent. Six of the homes were built before 1937 and are likely to have lead service lines.

The only source of lead in homes built after 1986 would be in plumbing fixtures.

Lead pipes were used in homes before the 1930s, said Matthew Wirtz, deputy director of engineering for City Utilities. Homes built in the late 1930s into the 1950s have a possibility of containing lead.

“When you get beyond that, the only lead typically used in plumbing was solder, Wirtz said.

Element Materials Technology will charge City Utilities customers 25. Other commercial labs in the state certified to perform lead tests can be found at www.in.gov/isdh/22452.htm.


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