- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

Six Arkansas water systems have exceeded federally allowable lead limits at least once since the start of 2013, including two that serve nearly 50,000 people, combined, an analysis shows.

A 2013 sample from the Community Water System, which serves more than 30,000 people in the Greers Ferry area, contained 25 parts per billion of lead, exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable level of 15 parts per billion, according to an Associated Press analysis of EPA data. It was one of five times in the last 25 years that the system self-reported a result above the federal level.

Harrison Waterworks, which serves nearly 17,000 people, reported a 2014 sample at 17 parts per billion, just above the federal mark.

The six Arkansas water systems were among nearly 1,400 throughout the country that registered lead levels that exceeded the EPA limit, according to the analysis, which covered data from Jan. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30 of last year.

The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement.



Although no amount of lead exposure is considered safe, the federal government requires state regulators to monitor all public water systems and take action to keep lead levels below the limit. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels exceeding the EPA limit, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary.

Tim Shaw, the general manager of the Community Water System, said the water in the Greers Ferry system is naturally corrosive, making it more likely to pull lead and copper from pipes in older homes. The water system adjusts the pH balance in the water, among other steps it takes to control the water’s corrosive qualities.

State regulators are required to hold public water systems accountable for lead levels, even though the lead measured at private residences often comes from private pipelines, said Jeff Stone, director of the engineering section of the Arkansas Department of Health.

A few smaller Arkansas systems have consistently reported higher lead levels. Delight Waterworks reported at least one lead sample above the federal level in nine of 16 sampling periods in the last 25 years. In that same time, Houston Waterworks reported at least one sample above the mark in seven of 15 sampling periods.

The other two Arkansas systems to report lead content above the regulatory limit were Keiser Waterworks, a system that serves about 1,500 people near Manila, and North Howard Rural Water Association, which serves roughly 1,000 near Umpire.

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