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Exposed Lead Paint Tainted Drinking Water

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

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A small town in eastern Virginia is the site of a brewing controversy over a water tank that was allegedly exposing residents to lead—even a year after the dangers were first uncovered.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that a water tower in Waverly, VA, one of two supplying drinking water to the town, was subject to a coating failure that exposed a lead-based primer. A representative of the Virginia Department of Health told the newspaper that town officials knew about the problem for at least a year before shutting down the tank.

Lead Twice the Limit

Testing performed in 2014 for use in the Sussex Service Authority’s 2015 Consumer Confidence Report showed lead levels of 30 parts per billion in a tap water sample in Waverly. The report notes that the number is twice the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable limit of 15 ppb. The report notes that the “typical source” of lead contamination is generally corrosion of household plumbing systems and erosion of natural deposits.

However, a representative of the state Department of Health has said that, based on evidence of the coating failure brought to the DOH’s attention by the town’s water tank inspection contractor, it’s likely the lead in the drinking water sample came from the exposed lead paint inside the tank.

According to the Times-Dispatch report, a wax tar coating on the inside of the tank failed, exposing the lead-based primer.

“We surmise that some of the paint chips from inside got into the distribution system,” Horne told the Times-Dispatch. “Had we known about it, we would have told them that it was not approved. Lead-based paint is never appropriate to use where it would come into contact with drinking water or even raw water.”

According to the newspaper, though, officials from the Sussex Service Authority called the high reading an aberration that couldn’t be replicated.

Removed from Service

The tank was removed from service in March, the report relates, after the DOH approached town officials about the problem. Additional testing done in May showed lead limits well under the prescribed limit—between 2 and 5.29 ppb.

Waverly contracts with the Sussex Service Authority for water treatment and billing, but handles tanks and distribution itself.

Waverly’s governance has been in turmoil during the past two years, with criticism of the water tank contract and other budgeting concerns. Mayor Barbara Gray, who signed Waverly’s contract with tank contractor Utility Service Group, resigned in August 2015 amid controversy regarding spending and transparency.

The Times-Dispatch reports that the town is working on putting out a request for proposals for the renovation of the problem tower, and that the town is working with Bowman Consulting, of Williamsburg, VA, to create a plan for its entire water system.



Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Latin America; Lead; Lead; North America; potable water; Primers; Tanks

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