- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Nearly 100,000 customers of Indiana’s largest water systems have service lines made of lead or lead components, according to a recent newspaper report.

The Indianapolis Star cites (https://indy.st/1OsWMBt ) responses to an Indiana Department of Environmental Management survey that it obtained through a public records request. The newspaper says its report was motivated by the lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, and the new federal regulations on lead drinking water that are expected next year.

After analyzing 91 of Indiana’s largest water systems, the newspaper determined that an estimated 8 percent with lead or lead components in service lines. But the statewide total could be much higher.

The highest percentage was in Decatur, where more than half of service lines are made of lead or lead components. Another area with a significant amount of lead service lines is Winchester, at an estimated 45 percent.

“I drank that water for years,” said Mary Hollingsworth, drinking water branch chief of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, who grew up in Winchester. “So I understand it’s important to replace these lead lines.”

In Indianapolis, Citizens Water reported 23,000 services lines, or about 6 percent of its service connections.

Lead poses a health risk, especially for babies, young children and pregnant mothers, but the immediate threat to Indiana residents is unclear.

Indiana American Water, which operates Winchester’s water system, said the city’s drinking water has registered below the federal benchmark for lead in all five government-mandated tests since 2004.

However, the federal benchmark isn’t a cutoff for what’s considered safe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and scientists argue that no level of lead is completely safe.

Hollingsworth said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management hasn’t yet analyzed the survey results but will do so soon because it takes the issue seriously.

“I have to see where their lead levels are at (from federal tests),” she said. “If they do corrosion control to help stop the lead, and their results are way below the action level, then they’re doing what they need to do. Eventually, they will start replacing those lines.”

Indiana American Water spokesman Joe Loughmiller said the company, which operates 31 systems in the state, is working on programs to replace lines and is involved in a national effort “to address the issue on a broader scale.”


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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