Lead and Copper11/1/2016
As schools complete their mandated lead and copper testing and the results are made public, many see the levels being found at certain locations and become concerned that their water may too be tainted.
It is important when listening to these news stories to understand these results and how lead and copper gets into the water, how the testing is conducted and why. Lead and copper are elements that are almost never found in source waters in any significant amounts. Instead, lead and copper usually finds its way into drinking water from the service pipe and internal plumbing in the building. Water that is corrosive will typically leach lead and/or copper from the plumbing, resulting in high levels of these contaminants, when given enough time to do so.
Sampling for lead and copper is done differently than sampling for any other chemical regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health. It is done by taking what is known as a "first draw" sample. Water is left to sit in the piping of the building for a minimum of six hours and then the first water drawn from the faucet after this rest period is collected for testing. Since the process of leaching these metals into the water takes some time, water that has not been sitting in the pipes for a prolonged period will not have high lead or copper levels.
The Clifton Park Water Authority system has never had issues with lead and copper. As a result, the CPWA is on a reduced monitoring schedule of once every three years. The issues that were recently in the news with Shenendehowa Schools were restricted to certain taps within those buildings, most likely due to piping, fittings, or fixtures on that particular internal system. It is not a result of any issues with the water provided by the CPWA.
Although the CPWA does not have problems with lead and copper, customers who want to ensure that they are drinking the lowest levels of these contaminants possible should let their water run for 15 - 30 seconds in the morning before drinking. Usually letting the water run until it is a consistent cold temperature will guarantee that you are drawing water that was not sitting in the internal piping of the home where it has had a chance to warm and potentially leach contaminants from the piping.
Information on contaminants in your water can be found in the CPWA's Annual Water Quality Report, which can be found on the this website.