AWWA has been contacted by multiple news agencies regarding a situation in Newark, N.J. where EPA is informing city officials that tap water in two of three tested homes still contains high lead levels despite the use of home treatment devices. City officials have begun to distribute bottled water to households with lead pipes after EPA recommended that Newark residents should not rely on filters to protect against elevated lead levels. Water utilities, particularly those experiencing Lead and Copper Rule lead exceedances, point-of-use or pitcher filter distribution programs, or lead service lines in their service areas, should be prepared to handle media and customer inquiries that may arise due to this situation. All utilities should expect elevated media interest on lead in drinking water and corrosion control practice. Utilities should communicate their commitment to protecting customers from risks from lead in drinking water. EPA has released the following Q&A pertaining to this situation in Newark: What is flushing and can it remove lead in Newark’s system? Flushing or running the tap has been shown to reduce the levels of lead in drinking water that has sat in the pipes and plumbing for periods of time because it moves the water that has been in contact with the lead pipe through the tap before a customer uses the water. Flushing has been shown to assist with moving the corrosion control treatment through the system and will assist long-term with reducing lead in the Newark system. Running water long enough to assure the water that sat in household plumbing and service lines is flushed will reduce lead levels. The results of samples taken at three Newark homes did show a reduction in lead levels for filtered sampling taken after flushing. The results from these households indicate that the lead is mostly particulate lead, which is likely a result of the unstable pipe scale from the previous corrosion control treatment. Particulate lead can be unpredictable because the particulates can break off randomly, so high and low lead levels can be inconsistent. Out of an abundance of caution, EPA recommends that people who have lead service lines or suspected lead service lines should be advised to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. People should continue to run their tap water and also use tap water for purposes other than cooking or drinking. Keeping water running through the lines should help Newark's newly improved corrosion control treatment work better. Why is EPA recommending that the citizens of Newark stop using filters? At this time, EPA is unable to determine if the drinking water filters provided by the City of Newark are effectively reducing levels of lead in drinking water. Out of an abundance of caution, EPA recommends that people who have lead service lines or suspected lead service lines should be advised to use bottled water for drinking and cooking. People should continue to run their tap water and also use tap water for purposes other than cooking or drinking. Keeping water running through the lines should help Newark's newly improved corrosion control treatment work better. Why is EPA recommending action based on sampling from three households? EPA, which provided the laboratory analyses for samples taken by Newark's contractor at these three households, is recommending action after confirmatory sampling showed that post-filter lead levels were still elevated in two of the households. In addition, the second round of testing used new filters to rule out human error and/or manufacturer defects. EPA believes a conservative approach is the right course at this time until Newark, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and EPA can determine what may be causing the levels to remain elevated. Newark is already conducting further sampling that will inform a long-term course going forward. Is it true that not using water for drinking or cooking in homes connected to lead service lines will hurt the ability for Newark's new corrosion control system to work properly? The majority of water flowing into homes is not for drinking and cooking, but rather for other household needs, such as flushing toilets, washing, showering and bathing. As long as people continue to use water for those purposes, enough water should flow to continue to optimize the new corrosion control treatment. I am using a filter to remove lead from my drinking water, should I be concerned? Filter effectiveness is dependent on operator use, water chemistry and the level of the contaminants [e.g. lead]. In a study conducted by EPA and the State of MI, EPA found that when properly used and maintained, the filters removed lead from drinking water even at concentrations greater than 150 parts per billion (ppb). Lead levels in filtered water averaged less than 0.3 ppb. EPA recommends that citizens that are concerned about the safety of their drinking water contact their water provider. How do I know if I am using my filter properly? EPA recommends following the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper use. Provided is a fact sheet that includes general instructions on how to use a filter: https://www.epa.gov/flint/fact-sheets-flint-residents Is it safe for adults to shower or bathe with unfiltered water? Can babies be bathed in tap water? Yes. Your skin does not absorb lead in water. If plain tap water has too much lead, bathing and showering is still safe for children and adults. It is safe even if the skin has minor cuts or scrapes. Never drink bathwater, and do not allow babies and children to drink bathwater. If you have concerns, call your primary care doctor. Is it safe to wash dishes and do laundry with unfiltered water? Yes, but dry them after. Wash dishes, bottles, and toys with unfiltered soapy water. Dry before use. Lead in water will not be absorbed by porcelain, metal, or glass. Clothes washed in plain tap water will not contain enough lead to cause harm. What does lead in drinking water come from? The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1986. To find out for certain if you have lead in drinking water, have your water tested. How can I reduce exposure to lead in drinking water? People who are concerned about lead in their drinking water can take steps to reduce their exposure including: • Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Remember, boiling water does not remove lead from water. • Before drinking, flush your home’s pipes by running the tap, taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes. • Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator). • If you use a filter certified to remove lead, don’t forget to read the directions to learn when to change the cartridge. Using a filter after it has expired can make it less effective at removing lead. • Contact your water company to determine if the pipe that connects your home to the water main (called a service line) is made from lead. Your area’s water company can also provide information about the lead levels in your system’s drinking water. For more visit: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/infographic-lead-drinking-water What is the status of the Lead and Copper Rule? EPA is currently working on updating the Lead and Copper Rule. The agency anticipates issuing the proposal this summer. AWWA lead resources include: • Lead Whiteboard Explainer • Lead Communications Toolkit • Lead Resource page • DrinkTap’s Lead In Water page • DrinkTap’s Water Filters and Home Treatment Devices page Questions can be directed to Greg Kail , AWWA’s director of communications.