Elevated levels of lead found in sampled drinking water in Belton

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BELTON, SC (WSPA) – Belton officials announced Thursday that elevated levels of lead has been found in the city’s drinking water.

Offiicals said in a news release that elevated lead levels were found during a monitoring period between June 1, 2018 to September 20, 2018.

Officials said lead in the city’s drinking water was last tested in 2015. In that testing, they sampled water from 37 homes. Officials said none of the homes exceeded the action level of 15 parts per billion or 0.015 mg/L.

“The lead level that requires public education and additional requirements is 15 parts per billion (ppb) or 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/L),” officials said in the release. 

Water sampled last year was found to have lead of 0.058 mg/L.

Elevated levels were found in six of 20 homes that were randomly sampled, Bo Barnes with the city of Belton told 7News.

Barnes said the homes are not all in the same area, and said the problem stems from old pipes.

According to Barnes, officials are working to add a corrosive control that would put a coating in the pipes.

Belton reportedly purchases the city’s drinking water from the Belton-Honea Path Water Authority and said the city does no further treatment of the water once purchased from the water authority.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental notified city officials who are working with the water authority to address the lead levels.

“The City in discussions with the Belton-Honea Path Water Authority has determined that the only change to the drinking water treatment process since the 2015 lead testing was a change in the coagulant chemical used to treat the drinking water,” from the release.

Belton-Honea Path Water Authority General Manager Mitch Ellenburg issued the following statement in regards to the recent drinking water test results in Belton:

“We understand the concerns raised by the results reported in the City of Belton. Weare working closely with its representatives and DHEC to help determine the reason or reasons for their test results and to develop long-term solutions for the issues that have been raised.

In addition to the City of Belton, Belton-Honea Path Water Authority serves several other districts in the area. It is important to note that we have not found similar test results in any of the other areas we serve.

In 2012, we began work to evaluate our water treatment process to enhance its overall water quality. In 2016, we made the change to a commonly-used additive called CPAC27 with DHEC’s approval because it provides improved water quality while using fewer chemicals.

Coagulation and flocculation are the key parts of the water treatment process where particles in the water come together and become large enough – floc is the term – to settle to the bottom of our treatment tanks. This allows small particles to be removed from the treated water. CPAC27 forms floc faster, especially in colder conditions. It also creates lower settled water turbidities and a more stable pH throughout the entire water treatment process.

The staff of Belton-Honea Path Water Authority has always followed federal and state drinking water standards and their testing requirements. While we have not seen similar test results in any other parts of our service area, it is our responsibility to adjust the water treatment process to address the test results found in Belton.

Belton-Honea Path Water Authority is already taking action to add orthophosphate to our water treatment process. Orthophosphate is a simple water additive which forms a protective coating of insoluble mineral scale on the inside of service lines and household plumbing. The coating serves as a liner that keeps corrosive elements in water from dissolving some of metal into the drinking water. As a result, lead and copper levels in the water will remain low. (Information from USEPA.)

As we move forward with our long-term solution, it is important to note that lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. There are a few ways for concerned customers to reduce their potential exposure as the situation is investigated. When water has been sitting for several hours – for example, overnight – one can minimize the potential for lead exposure by running your water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.

If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, you may wish to have your water tested. Additional information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline or at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

If you have additional questions, you may contact Mike McGill with WaterPIO, a
company assisting Belton-Honea Path Water Authority with its public communications, at (910) 622-8472 or via email at mike@waterpio.com. 

According to the release, the city has been monitoring the lead and copper in the drinking water since the lead and copper program was started by the Environmental Protection Agency, and said there was not a violation of the lead action level before 2018.

To reduce exposure to lead in your drinking water:

  • Run your water to flush out lead
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula
  • Do not boil water to remove lead
  • Look for alternative sources or treatment of water
  • Test your water for lead
  • Get your child tested
  • Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead and replace if necessary

For more information, call the City of Belton at 864-338-0058 extension 150 or visit the city’s website at www.cityofbeltonsc.com.

Also visit www.epa.gov/lead or call Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 for more information on reducing lead exposure.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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