Drinking water at some Providence homes, buildings may contain elevated lead levels

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Water announced Friday that there may be elevated levels of lead in the drinking water of some homes and buildings.

While the agency said the water that leaves the treatment plant in Scituate and journeys through the city’s distribution system has no detectable levels of lead, some service pipes and plumbing fixtures such as faucets, valves, brass pipes and pipe solder can contain lead.

Approximately one out of every six customer homes are connected to water mains with services made of lead, according to Providence Water. The agency said it’s continuing to evaluate the water treatment process in an effort to reduce lead levels in affected homes.

Residents can find out if their home has public lead service lines by using the interactive map on Providence Water’s website. But the agency said that even if a home doesn’t have a public lead service line, it may still have a private lead service pipe, or lead fixtures and house plumbing.

According to Providence Water, when standing water is exposed to lead pipes or fixtures for more than a few hours, trace amounts of lead can enter the water. This means water drawn from the tap in the morning or later in the afternoon after returning home from work or school can contain higher levels of lead.

Consumption of lead can lead to serious health problems, especially in young children and pregnant women. Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and can interfere with the production of red blood cells, which help carry oxygen throughout the body.

Providence Water provided a few simple steps residents can take to reduce potential lead exposure from household plumbing:

  • Run water faucet for 3 to 5 minutes if the first use of the water is for drinking or cooking.
  • At the end of the flush, the running water should feel noticeably colder. This colder water from the tap indicates that standing water in the home’s pipes has been flushed and displaced by water from the water main in the street, where the exposure to lead is non-existent.
  • For families with babies and young children, formula and other meals should always be prepared with flushed cold water. Using hot water from the tap can cause trace lead amounts to leach from the home’s plumbing into the food source, even after a full flush.
  • Families should also clean their home’s faucet aerators periodically. Lead from the home’s plumbing could accumulate undetected in the aerator screen and be in contact with water passing through, especially after any repair or replacement of lead-­‐based plumbing or fixtures in the home.
  • Unlike microbial contamination, boiling water does not reduce any lead levels in drinking water.

Providence Water customers can also pick up a free lead test kit at its customer service location located at 125 Dupont Drive in Providence. For more information, call (401) 521–6303.