SMU's Efforts to Keep Lead Out of Water Supply

03/03/2016 2:20 PM

Spencer Municipal Utilities has been monitoring and addressing the issue of potential lead contamination of drinking water here in Spencer for nearly 25 years. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Lead and Copper Rule in 1991, SMU began to collect data and make changes to its system to maintain compliance. Results of those samples have also been sent directly to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). SMU has a good historical record of lead and copper samples being well within normal limits and have never had a water quality violation.

Lead and Copper Sampling

The purpose of sampling for lead and copper are to protect public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water, primarily by reducing water corrosivity. Lead and copper can enter drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead and copper in plumbing materials.

The public health benefits are to reduce the risk of exposure to lead that can cause damage to brain, red blood cells, and kidneys, especially for young children and pregnant women. The public health benefits are to reduce the risk of exposure to copper that can cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver and kidney damage, and complications of Wilson’s disease in genetically predisposed people.

Lead and copper can naturally be accumulated in drinking water. Through interaction of water and plumbing materials like lead service lines, interior plumbing and sediments.

In addition to quality process control sampling performed at the Water Treatment Plant on a daily basis, there is also monitoring of water once it leaves the plant and is in the distribution system.

Every three years, SMU is required to collect water samples from customers at 30 different locations throughout the service area. The sampling must be done during June 1 to September 30 and the sites being sampled must be from the following categories.

  • Single family structures that contain copper pipes with lead solder (1983-1988) or contain lead pipes and/or served by a lead service line
  • Buildings that contain the above materials
  • Single family structures that contain copper pipes with lead solder installed before 1983

These samples are processed through the IDNR and analyzed in IDNR and U.S. EPA certified labs with results reported directly to the IDNR. Since this sampling rule started nearly 25 years ago, SMU has been in compliance for both lead and copper levels. Results of the samples are also sent to those customer addresses who collected samples so they know the results and are assured there isn’t an issue.

Water Main Replacement

SMU is also proactive in replacing lead service lines as part of our routine maintenance on our system. Each year SMU spends an average of $500,000 updating over a mile of distribution.

What You Can Do

The property owner owns the water service line that begins at the main, and makes decisions on how and when to replace those pipes. When they are replaced, they need to be done within current codes and lead-free standards.

Lead and copper are colorless and odorless. If customers are noticing some discolored water, it is currently due to construction on the Water Treatment Plant and the changes in treatment and distribution. The colors customers may be seeing are due to iron, magnesium and manganese.

If customers are concerned about the possibility of lead in drinking water, they should flush the taps by letting the water run for at least 60 seconds. If your dwelling has a lead service line, you should flush for an additional two-three minutes to ensure you’re getting fresh water from the main. While flushing, you can conserve that water by collecting it and using it for cleaning purposes or watering plants.

If customers have questions or concerns during this time of construction, please call SMU directly at 580-WATR (9287) or email at smuwater@smunet.net.


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