Lead found in Edgerton water samples likely not evidence of bigger problem, city says

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Jim Dayton
Monday, November 13, 2017

EDGERTON—Water samples taken this summer for a regular lead compliance check revealed three of Edgerton's 20 test sites contain more lead than legally allowed.

Preliminary tests showed the high lead samples are likely confined to the test sites and are not evidence of a widespread distribution problem. Edgerton is waiting for a state laboratory to finish follow-up tests to confirm the extent of the issue, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said.

Under state Department of Natural Resources guidelines, the city performs lead and copper checks once every three years at 20 sites. The DNR chooses the sites in older neighborhoods more likely to have lead pipes.

The same sites are used every three years for testing, unless the DNR selects a new place. Elevated lead in three of 20 sites might seem high, but Edgerton does not bother testing in newer homes built without lead pipes, Flanigan said.

“It's not like we tested everyone in the city. The DNR wants you to test more likely to be problematic areas,” she said. “If we tested everybody in the city, all the subdivisions recently built, assuming there's not a problem in the distribution system, anything in the new subdivision wouldn't have any lead in it.”

All three locations with high lead levels were in an older part of the city near downtown, she said.

Having three instances means the city is required to notify the public, the first time it has needed to do so since testing began in 1994. Edgerton might have had isolated incidents in the past, but it never had three or more in one test, she said.

Edgerton issued a press release Monday and mailed informational packets to all residents.

The city has tested its three deep-water wells and found no evidence of excessive lead. That means the citywide water distribution network likely does not contain elevated lead levels, Flanigan said.

Edgerton must now wait for state test results to pinpoint the cause. Flanigan did not have a time estimate for when that would finish but said the city would keep the public updated.

While the city uses the same test sites, changes in how those homes are used could have triggered the positive tests. Homeowners who seldom run their water could have an issue if the water sits inside the pipes for a long time, she said.

She advised residents to let their water run before drinking it. Once the water turns cold, stagnant water has been flushed from the system, she said.

Anyone who is still concerned can check the city mailing for details about having a home tested.

As for the homes with positive samples, it is uncertain if Edgerton would bear responsibility for removing the lead pipes. Municipalities are not allowed to pay for any private replacements, but the state Legislature is considering a bill that would change that.

If passed, the bill would allow municipalities to raise utility rates to pay for private improvements. Flanigan said she hopes the state would give cities that ability and allow local governments to have a policy discussion with their residents.

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