By Shanderia K. Posey
On Wednesday, about a week after the city of Jackson was notified that water samples from 13 residences contained elevated lead levels, preliminary resampling results from those same residences show no lead in six of the residences.
The other preliminary results reveal five locations have markedly lower levels of lead and of those five, two locations still exceed the actionable level by 1 ppb (parts per billion). As for the last two residences, one property is now vacant, and it was learned a private well was being used at the other location.
Director of Public Works Kishia Powell met with Mississippi Department of Health representatives Wednesday to discuss the preliminary results and the next steps to address the locations exceeding the action level for lead. Next steps will include identifying funding to upgrade corrosion control measures and increased monitoring in the distribution system.
The City is in compliance with state and federal regulations and is continuing to monitor its water system as required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The water is safe for cooking and drinking. As an extra precaution, it is recommended that homeowners flush the cold water faucet for one minute and not use water from the hot water tap for drinking or cooking.
The city was notified by the MSDH Jan. 28, that random water samples from 13 out of 58 homes showed lead above the actionable levels of 0.015. The agency retrieved the samples in June 2015 and received the results in July 2015.
Within an hour of notification from MSDH, the city dispatched water sample kits to the 13 locations for immediate re-sampling or retesting.
At a press conference last week with MSDH and the city of Jackson, Kishia Powell, Jackson’s director of Public Works, told the media, “Our drinking water is safe.” In anticipation of results from the resampling, she said, “We expect to see those levels down below actionable level.”
The issue of having lead in a city’s public drinking water system has garnered national attention ever since the water crisis in Flint, Mich. unfolded in recent months. Now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has issued a statement regarding Jackson’s issue.
The statement read, “I was concerned to hear that tests of drinking water in Jackson, Mississippi revealed elevated levels of lead in some homes. I’m heartened that Jackson city officials are taking the right steps to fix the problem, including repeated testing and openness with the results, so families can stay informed. As the emergency in Flint, Michigan, has made clear, cities and states must treat these situations with the utmost seriousness, and do everything in their power to ensure that families – especially children – have access to safe, clean drinking water. And we as a nation must make urgent investments to modernize our utilities and infrastructure, to keep families and communities safe and healthy.”
Powell and MSDH officials explained last week that the results from the 13 Jackson residences are considered home dependent, meaning that pipes and/or plumbing in the homes were the cause of the increased level of lead. They did not attribute the lead levels to a problem with water from the treatment facility. Often times older homes, particularly those built before the 1980s, have pipes made from lead. When water is collected to be tested from such homes, particularly water that has sat stagnant for about six hours, traces of lead may be indicated. The officials reported the levels do not pose a health risk to the public.
Powell emphasized the city routinely samples its public drinking water before and after it leaves the water plant.
As a result of the increased lead levels, the city is required to take additional compliance measures such as resampling, doing additional sampling of 100 homes, additional monitoring of the water system and notification to consumers. The city has posted a pamphlet about lead in drinking water on the city’s website at www.jacksonms.gov to educate consumers.
To explain the seven-month delay of notifying the city of the lead level results, MSDH officials including State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier; Thomas Dobbs, state epidemiologist; and Jim Craig, state director of health protection; cited an EPA copper and lead rule that requires testing to be done every three years in areas where low lead levels are found.
MSDH followed the EPA’s compliance rule in reporting the results but may now reconsider the reporting procedure.
“I think it is something we will review,” Craig said.
Residents who want to have their water tested may call (601) 576-7518.