Despite the pristine source of our water, questions have arisen in light of the events in Flint, Michigan:
Q: Can what happened in Flint happen here?
A: No. Seattle and Bellevue routinely test and scientifically monitor results of chemical composition of the water and treat accordingly. Seattle and Bellevue routinely test water for a variety of chemicals and naturally occurring substances in our water. Seattle also routinely monitors the corrosive nature of the water supply and potential interaction with pipes. Treatment is done as needed to meet state and federal drinking water standards. Water quality results are required to be listed in an annual report and reported to state and federal agencies, which monitor water quality as well.
Q: Can corrosion in our pipes cause health and water quality problems?
A: Yes. It can happen in any water supply system however, the corrosive nature of the water is monitored and the water sources are treated appropriately at the treatment facilities to prevent corrosion issues from occurring.
Q: Why did Flint water become contaminated with lead?
A: Water sources were changed and water quality treatment was not necessarily changed along with it. The corrosive nature of the new water supply damaged pipes and leached lead into the water delivered to homes, businesses, and schools. It also had an impact on the pipes in the homes, schools and businesses. Local water supplies in Bellevue have not changed, and routine testing and treatment is continuous.
Q: Are there any lead components in the Bellevue water system?
A: Yes. Unlike Flint though, Bellevue’s water pipes are not lined with lead. However, some older pipes may have joints with small amounts of lead. Bellevue routinely tests its water for lead to ensure that the water is safe to drink.
Q: Is there any lead in my home plumbing?
A: Maybe. Lead can leach into water from home plumbing systems built with lead-based solder, brass fixtures, or some types of zinc coatings used on galvanized pipes and fittings. These are beyond the control of Bellevue Utilities. If you have concerns, you can have your home drinking water tested. To have your home tested contact a certified lab near your area. The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for certifying labs in Washington. The Department of Ecology website lists labs certified to test drinking water. Analysis costs range from $25 to $50. Please contact the laboratories directly for sample collection procedures and prices.
Q: Does Bellevue do any monitoring for lead in water?
A: Yes. Bellevue’s lead monitoring results meet the established EPA action levels for lead. Bellevue began sampling and analysis to meet the EPA requirement beginning in 1992. The rule sets action levels of 15 ug/L (0.015 mg/L) for lead. A utility must make treatment changes or meet other requirements if the action level for lead is exceeded in more than 10 percent of residential samples. Bellevue qualifies for reduced monitoring for lead (50 homes once every three years). The most recent round of samples showed one result with action levels. Bellevue has met all requirements of the lead and copper rule since 2003.
Q: Out of an abundance of caution, is there anything else I can do to reduce the potential for possible lead exposure?
A: Yes. There are a few simple steps you can take in the home to reduce the risk of lead in your drinking water:
- If water has been standing in pipes for over 6 hours, flush out the pipes by running the tap until you feel a temperature change before using for drinking or cooking, usually thirty seconds to three minutes. To save water, use the water you flush out for watering plants or doing dishes.
- Always draw drinking and cooking water from COLD water tap – lead dissolves more quickly in hot water.
- Never make baby formula or other drinks or food for children from the HOT water tap. Start with water taken from the cold water faucet (after flushing) and warm it if necessary.
- If you are making plumbing changes, be sure to select low-lead or no-lead fixtures. As of January 2014, a new federal law is in effect, reducing the amount of lead in plumbing fixtures from 8 percent to 0.25 percent. Manufacturers are already offering faucets that meet the new standard.
The following are ways that Bellevue keeps water safe for its residents:
- Monitor drinking water quality throughout the city to make sure it meets or exceeds state and federal water quality standards.
- Manage the Cross Connection Control/Backflow Prevention Program to prevent contaminants from entering the city’s water system.
- Establish procedures used during water main breaks to protect drinking water quality.
- Conduct water main flushing, sampling and results tracking to ensure freshness.
- Inspect water storage tanks to ensure they have secure and sanitary conditions as well as oversee storage tank cleaning to remove any accumulated sediments.
- Assist customers with water quality issues in their homes.
- Keep abreast of changing state and federal regulations.
- Maintain strong relationships with Washington State’s Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water.
- Train for water emergencies with other regional water providers.