U.S. Water News Online
BOSTON -- More than four thousand Boston city properties
have aging lead pipes that could be exposing city residents to higher
lead levels than federal law allows.
Many of the 4,500 properties with lead pipes are in neighborhoods
that already have high rates of childhood lead poisoning.
For the most part, the lead levels in those homes are unknown, but
the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority released tests results
for a small sampling of the properties that show levels exceeding
federal standards, according to The Boston Globe.
Environmental groups urged more aggressive action from city and
"It's important to us that the people at risk are communicated
with and told how to avoid this exposure," said Peter Shelley of the
Conservation Law Foundation. "We need more homes to be tested."
Lead primarily effects young children, who can experience lower
IQs and other developmental problems because of lead.
Old paint in homes contains lead, as does brass plumbing fixtures,
but lead pipes could make an existing lead poisoning problem worse,
Joel Schwartz, a professor of environmental health at the Harvard
School of Public Health, said lead in drinking water rarely
contributes to large amounts of lead exposure to people.
But lead in drinking water, he said, probably contributes to a
child's overall lead exposure because in New England, "we tend to
have corrosive water and old pipes."
The 47-community MWRA system complies with federal standards, but
nine communities, including Boston, had some properties that exceeded
the standard, according to a sample from 440 homes.
The authority's small sampling in Belmont, Framingham, Malden,
Medford, Norwood, Quincy, Somerville, and Watertown also showed
levels of lead exceeding the 15 parts per billion allowed by law.
"We are concerned about it," Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, planning
director for the water resources authority, which oversees the
region's water system. "We are working with homeowners... We call the
ones with high lead levels."
The problem is complicated. In Boston, property owners, not the
city, own the pipes that hook people's properties into public water
Inside a dwelling, brass water fixtures can contain lead, and MWRA
officials say such fixtures are more likely than pipes to contribute
to lead in the tap water.
Running tap water for at least 15 seconds before using it for
drinking or cooking flushes out most lead that has accumulated in the
Homeowners can also try to isolate the lead source to fixtures or
old pipes and replace lead pipes that run from their house to their
property line. Boston officials have started a program that
contributes $1,000 to the estimated $2,000 replacement cost.
The Boston Water and Sewer Commission has removed all but about
1,000 of the publicly owned lead service lines, pipes leading from
water mains to people's property lines. And the MWRA gives zero
interest loans to communities to replace pipes.
Return to the
U.S. Water News' Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.