JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Water in some Jackson area homes has tested positive for lead above the recommended levels, state officials said.
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Friday confirmed that water tests from 22 percent of its 58-residence sample detected lead levels between 0.017 and 0.02 - above the federal action level of 0.015. Those results came from samples gathered and tested six months ago.
The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/1NHGugF ) the affected areas include 13 homes in southwest and north Jackson.
“What that means is the city is required to take additional compliance measures,” said Jackson Director of Public Works Kishia Powell. “It does not mean that the city has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, and our water is safe.”
Powell said the city is confident the problem stems from lead plumbing in individual homes, especially older ones, and that the results do not indicate an issue with Jackson’s water system.
“We have every reason to believe this is home dependent, which means that it is related to the internal plumbing of the home, and that’s largely because we had 58 samples taken, only 13 of them exceeded the actionable level and there were homes on the same street that were sampled that did not exceed those levels,” Powell said.
Powell added that the city samples its source water daily.
The city will conduct additional sampling of the 13 homes as well as up to 100 other locations. It is also required to notify all consumers of the city’s water.
“We want people to understand how they should be flushing their internal plumbing system before using water,” Powell said. “These are just measures you take.”
Health department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said the issue of higher-than-recommended levels of lead in water is not unique to Jackson.
“It is not unusual for water systems to deal with similar issues. When this compliance test came back, there were four other water systems that had some similar issues,” Sharlot said.
Before August 2014, the Jackson’s Maddox Road Well system served much of south Jackson along the Mississippi 18 corridor. At that time, the city took the well system offline and the residents’ service was switched to surface water.
The water samples in the Health Department report were taken in June, while the entire city was using the city’s surface water system. In July, the Health Department received the results of the testing. The same month, the city switched back on its well system, which continues to serve the area today.
Though the Health Department conducted the study in June and received the results in July, the agency did not report the information until Jan. 28. State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said that’s because the sampling was part of a compliance test with the Environmental Protection Agency, which does not require immediate notification.
The compliance period is three years, Currier said.
“We don’t actually calculate whether a system is in compliance until after that period is over,” Currier said. “Now let me assure you that we’re going to take a look at how that’s done and see if we don’t need to change that.”
Currier and other state health officials assure there is no evidence to suggest Jackson residents are in harm’s way, but Dr. Robert Cox, director of the Mississippi Poison Control and professor of emergency medicine, stressed caution.
Cox said the numbers are above the EPA’s guidance limit and those who live in the area should be tested.
“There is no safe exposure for lead. The bottom line is, for young children and pregnant women you want the lead exposure to be zero. Sometimes zero is not attainable, but you want to have it as close to zero as possible,” Cox said.
Powell said Friday that she expects the lead levels in the water from homes sampled recently to be lower than they were in June.
Cox also said the numbers were “relatively low,” adding, “these are nothing close to what people in Flint, Michigan, are seeing right now.”
However, he said, “I don’t think you can ever say, ‘These are low levels. There’s nothing to worry about.’”
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com
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