Lead in Drinking Water

As stated by the Minnesota Department of Health:

“[Lead} can still be found in lead-based paint, some imported consumer products, and, under some conditions in air, soil, household dust, pottery, food, plumbing pipes and components, and drinking water. If it is inhaled or swallowed, lead can build up in the body over time. If too much lead enters the body, it can damage the brain, nervous system, red blood cells, and kidneys. Lead in drinking water can be a particular problem for infants who drink formula made with tap water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also need to be concerned about lead levels in drinking water since it can be passed on to unborn children and breast-fed babies.” 

So, how does lead get into the water system ?

There are many ways in our everyday walk where we may be exposed to very small amounts of lead.  Typically, these amounts are not great enough to cause bad health effects.  The wells which supply water in Minnesota typically does not contain detectable levels of lead.  However, older pipes within households and plumbing fixtures, such as faucets, fittings, valves and lead solder joints may contain amounts of lead.  If the water is of a chemical makeup that is corrosive and is allowed to sit idle in the plumbing pipes for a substantial amount of time, a portion of the lead that may be present can be leached out into the water that we consume.

Due to these concerns, steps have been put in place to minimize risks due to lead exposure.  Solder used in copper piping is now lead free.  Similarly, fittings that are manufactured are also regulated regarding the amount of lead that may be present.

The Minnesota Department of Health also performs testing of the distribution systems to monitor lead levels.  While there will likely be a detectable amount of lead and other impurities due to older plumbing inside the home, the MDH insures that Community Water Supplies meet standards for lead and require treatment, if need, to meet safe water drinking standards.

The level of lead that was measured in the system was 2 micrograms per liter, which is equivalent to 0.002 milligrams per liter.  The “Action Level” for lead is 15.0 micrograms, or 0.0015 milligrams per liter.   Therefore, the system is well below the threshold for treatment requirements.  

In addition to testing for lead levels, the MDH also performs testing for many other impurities to the water system, on an annual basis.   Results for the City of Shorewood’s most recent test results can be found in what is known as the Consumer Confidence Report.

In addition to the annual Consumer Confidence Report, the Minnesota Department of Health has many good resources regarding lead in the water and drinking water protection.