U.S. Water News Online
RALEIGH, N.C. -- More than 200 public water systems that
ignored state requests for information about their safety will be
ordered to test for lead and copper by the end of September, instead
of next year or the year after, officials said.
The short deadline was chosen because the systems failed to
provide data about how they conducted previous lead tests, said Terry
L. Pierce, director of the state Division of Environmental Health,
which includes the Public Water Supply Section.
The section is to send letters to 217 public water systems across
the state, changing their test requirement from once every three
years to once per year, beginning now.
"Until they comply with providing the information we've asked for,
they've got to test," Pierce said.
Federal environmental regulations require water systems in North
Carolina to run lead tests on houses built in the early to mid-1980s,
before all but a small amount of lead was banned from use in the
solder that connects copper pipes.
The state sent letters to about 2,650 water systems in March after
The News & Observer raised questions about systems that were
testing the wrong houses. Follow-up letters were sent in June to
systems that failed to respond.
But more than 400 systems ignored both letters. About half were
already due for new tests this summer, and their test schedule was
Pierce said it will take officials in the Public Water Supply
Section months to work their way through more than 2,000 responses
that were received.
Only two people in the office are qualified to review the
responses. Lawmakers gave permission for increases in water system
permit fees that will allow the section to hire 19 more people, but
the fees don't take effect until January.
"We're getting the low-hanging fruit first," Pierce said.
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