The lead discovered in household water samples toward the end of last year is likely coming from the piping systems of households tested, not the water supply, said the Bordentown Water Department. This came after a second round of testing following the November/December 2017 water sampling round organized by the BWD, which found that 16 of the 68 sampled homes had results above New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection acceptable levels.
The BWD looks to regularly test for lead in water due to the harmful effects of the substance, as explained in information sent out to city homeowners in January. Lead in water can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and interfere with red blood cell production. Lead exposure poses the greatest risk to infants, young children and pregnant women.
According to Bordentown City Commissioner Joe Myers, who is also the director of Public Property, Streets and Water, the city was previously on a 12-month water testing cycle. In this cycle, the city asked residents to volunteer their water for samples, and then these samples were sent to an independent lab to test for lead, copper, and any other harmful substances.
After the first round of testing showed exceedance levels in the 16 households, not concentrated in any specific area of the city or township, they were then individually notified of the results and of the need for future testing. The city moved to a six-month testing cycle, and will remain on this cycle until it receives two consecutive clear results. The first test in this cycle was using water samples from the same 16 households, and according to unofficial results, all samples were clear.
The differing results between the two samples may come from the varying experimental methods used, following NJDEP standards. “In the original round of sampling, the testing procedure is called the first draw sampling,” Myers said. “In this procedure, there is a requirement of a six-hour minimum hold time for the water supply. What usually happens is that when [the residents] go to bed, and the sample that you take in the morning has been stationary for around six hours. That was the procedure for the original 68 samples.
“The second sample is a flushed sample, in which you turn the water on and you let it run for 20-30 seconds and you test that sample. I’m happy to say that in the 16 samples, all came back below exceedance. Although we haven’t received the physical sample yet, the results have been posted online. This tells you that the lead is not coming from the city supply, its coming from the interior plumbing of the homes,” he added. The city is paying for the additional tests.
The lead exceedance levels were not the first in recent Bordentown history. According to mayor Jim Lynch, the school district recently faced a similar problem with lead from the plumbing systems entering the supply for water fountains. Myers added, however, that the last lead exceedance supply in households was over a decade ago. These issues can be attributed to the older plumbing systems in many Bordentown households. As the notice said, “The highest risk customers are those with either lead service lines or lead soldered copper piping installed between 1982 and 1987. These are the customers that are prioritized in our sampling.”
The city will be following the specific state protocol that requires the implementation of a corrective action plan. As part of this plan, the administration hosted an informational public forum at the Carslake Community Center Feb. 21. “The objective of [the meeting] is education and outreach, so people can know what’s happening, and if they want to volunteer for the sampling they can. We want to make sure we educate the public on what a lead exceedance means, and what we are doing in response,” Myers said. Along with this forum, the BWD also distributed literature regarding lead exceedances to homeowners along with their most recent water bill.
The BWD is undergoing major renovations and upgrades to their systems of operation. “We just did a $5 million renovation to the water utilities that started around four years ago and were largely funded by grants and low interest rate loans. The new wells that we have built are nearly perfect,” Lynch said.
Myers added that, as a result of the newly approved NJDEP Asset Management Policy Program, the administration has hired a consultant to help go through every asset that the city owns and their last date of maintenance. “The future of the BWDwill be this asset management plan,” he said. “It’s going to be a very useful tool for us to have this inventory, and the ability for us to know the maintenance schedule and what needs to be upgraded will be very helpful.”
Overall, stressed “that the goal of BWDis to provide clean water. Once we learned of this lead exceedance, we proactively made a plan with the state and the Water Advisory Committee for a community outreach and public education plan.”
“The public can be assured that there’s no issue coming out of the well. However, the (residents) should know that we are very vigilant on this. We’re going to do everything we can do to solve the problem. Lead is a very dangerous substance, especially for children. We’re going to act in due diligence and continue to do what we have to do. We’re going to make the public aware of it, and we’re going to assist in any way we can,” Lynch said.
For more information on the lead water levels, visit cityofbordentown.com.