Denton Missed Test for Lead and Copper in Drinking Water

Leaders in Denton said they missed the deadline for an important test of household drinking water in town last year.

City Environmental Director Ken Banks said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires the city tests samples of water coming out of taps inside homes for copper and lead.

The tests are supposed to take place inside a sample of 50 homes, most of them older homes with aged pipes, to make sure that pH levels in the water supply aren’t causing lead and copper inside the house’s pipes to chip off and thus, flow into drinking water.

That test was supposed to happen between June and September of 2015, but it didn’t.

"It's an oversight,” said Banks.

Normally, Banks said the state sends testing materials to the city around that time of the test that they can then distribute to the sample homes, and, he said that tends to act as the reminder for them to trigger the test. However procedures changed, the cities are now expected to provide the materials, and when the materials never came, it just got missed, Banks said.

The testing has to occur during the summer months, so Banks said they plan to make this one up in the coming summer of 2016.

Meanwhile, he’s stressing to residents that the risk of problems is low.

Since monitoring for lead and copper started in 1993, Banks said Denton’s numbers have been consistently low; the most recent tests in 2012 yielding only 0.00168 parts per million (ppm) of lead and 0.456 ppm of Copper. The maximum contaminant levels allowed by the state are 0.015 ppm for lead and 1.3 ppm for copper.

It’s because of that problem free history and low risk level that Denton is only required to test once every three years.

Banks also said that generally issues in these level arise when changes are made to a city’s water source and those aged pipes in some homes start encountering higher pH levels, similar to the current situation in Flint, Michigan.

Denton gets most of its water supply from Lake Ray Roberts as it has for many years.

Banks said there have also been no indicators of problems of changes at the water treatment plants in town.

"We take all the precautionary measures to adjust that water PH so that it is not going to liberate the material from the pipe,” he said.

Residents were informed of the issue in their January water bills.

Even with the low risk, several said they were concerned to hear that any sort of test regarding drinking water quality could simply get missed.

"Surprising, it’s definitely surprising,” said Bree Brettman of Denton. “Definitely an important thing to take note of."

"It's a little scary, especially if someone's not doing their job and checking copper levels and stuff in the water,” said Rebecca Calloway who was visiting friends in town Tuesday.

Banks said they are working to make sure no oversights like this happen again in the future.

He said if residents are concerned about lead or copper while they await the make-up test this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends using cold water from your taps to cut down on the chance of lead or copper contamination, and also running your tap for about 30 seconds before using the water to flush out your home’s pipes.

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