WEST CHESTER (June 23) – State Senator Andy Dinniman and members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday to study the scope and impact of lead issues in Pennsylvania.
In approving the bill, Dinniman cited his own experience in discovering that water at his West Chester District Office, located at 1 North Church Street, had exceptionally high levels of lead content in the water. Upon repairing a problem with the water meter, Aqua Pennsylvania officials performed a test, which determined that the historic building’s water contained 47 ug/L (micrograms per liter or parts per billion). The “Action Level” of lead in water is 15 ug/L.
“The situation in Flint, Michigan prompted the legislature to take action in examining the possibility of lead contamination in our homes, schools, buildings, and water supply,” Dinniman said. “We must be proactive and vigilant in identifying and amending potential lead issues here in Pennsylvania and Chester County, especially in light of our effort to preserve historic structures and incorporate their reuse.”
Dinniman said Aqua Pennsylvania, upon discovering the high-lead content, notified the office’s landlord, Zukin Realty, and together they replaced the pipes that were at fault. In addition, Dinniman’s staff notified his adjoining neighbors on the Market and Church Street sides. Dinniman also thanked Aqua Pennsylvania for notifying the adjoining structures and for offering to test their water free of charge.
Senate Bill 16, which now goes to the Senate floor, will study the age of our housing stock, lead pipes, school buildings and day care centers throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the task force would study best practices and make recommendations to remediate the lead issues throughout the Commonwealth.
A 2014 Department of Health study found that children in more than eighteen communities throughout the Commonwealth have tested positive for lead at levels higher than those in Flint. Some of the communities in that report are: Allentown, Altoona, Bethlehem, Erie, Johnstown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Reading, and Scranton.
Dinniman also noted that the dangers of lead also extend to schools, day care facilities, public buildings, and homes through lead-based paints.
“It is time we take action to analyze the Commonwealth’s potential lead issue to ensure that our children and our communities are safe,” Dinniman said. “I would have never thought that the lead content in water at my West Chester District Office was more than three times the acceptable level.”
According to Aqua Pennsylvania, the main source of lead in drinking water is from lead service lines and from typical household plumbing (lead solder and brass fixtures) that contain lead. The use of lead solder was prohibited after 1986, so buildings constructed after that should not have contained lead in the solder.
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. If can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women.
If you are concerned about lead exposure contact your healthcare provider or local health department to find out how you can get your child tested for lead.
Residents interested in information about testing your water should call Aqua at 877-987-2782. Schools or daycare centers should call the EPA’s safe drinking water hotline at 800-426-4791.