GREEN BAY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Brown County

Green Bay Water Utility continues lead education efforts after finding lead levels above EPA limit

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay Water Utility is continuing its lead education efforts after finding lead levels in some homes above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action limit in 2019.

Officials say the City of Green Bay has fewer than 200 remaining lead service lines, causing less than 1% of utility customers are affected.

Lead water lines were last installed in Green Bay in 1944, according to officials. In 1984, lead solder was banned in Wisconsin.

Homes built after these dates are less likely to have issues with lead, according to Green Bay Water Utility.

Historically, Green Bay Water Utility says the city’s lead levels have been below the EPA action limit of 15 parts per billion, or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water.

Green Bay Water Utility says its source water, water mains and finished drinking water do not contain lead. When water is in contact with pipes or service lines and plumbing containing lead for several hours, the lead may enter drinking water.

The EPA estimates that 10-20% of a person’s potential lead exposure may come from drinking water.

Green Bay Water Utility says that although most area homes have low levels of lead in their drinking water, lead can cause serious health problems. Officials recommend taking the following actions to address the concern of lead in drinking water:

  • In order to remove minerals from the walls of water mains that are known to contribute to the lead levels in homes, Green Bay Water Utility will continuously perform its Uni-directional Flushing (UDF) program on all 440 miles of its distribution water mains.
  • The utility will continue replacing the portion of each lead water service line that it owns if the line contributes lead concentrations of more than the EPA’s limit and after completing the comprehensive flushing program. Homeowners with privately-owned lead water service lines are also required to replace them under Green Bay Ordinance 21.11. Contact Green Bay Water Utility funding assistance program details.
  • Lead service lines on streets that are being resurfaced and reconstructed are actively replaced each year.
  • Green Bay Water Utility plans to have all known utility-owned lead service lines removed and replaced by 2021.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in your water:

  • Run your water to flush out lead. Run water for one-to-two minutes to flush lead from interior plumbing or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking, if it hasn’t been used for several hours.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. DO NOT cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Determine whether or not the service line that connects your home or apartment to the water main is made of lead. The best way to determine if your service line is made of lead is by either hiring a licensed plumber to inspect the line or by contacting the plumbing contractor who installed the line. You can also learn how to identify private water service line material on Green Bay Water Utility’s website or by clicking here.
  • Identify and replace plumbing fixtures and solder containing lead.
  • Have an electrician check your wiring. If grounding wires from the electrical system are attached to your pipes, corrosion may be greater. DO NOT attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
  • Test your water for lead. Call Green Bay Water Utility at (920) 448-3480 to find out how to get your water tested for lead. See our website at gbwater.org for a list of labs certified to test lead in drinking water levels.
  • Get your child’s blood tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
  • Look for alternative drinking water sources or treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Call Green Bay Water Utility at (920) 448-3480 or visit gbwater.org to find out how to get your water tested for lead or for more information on steps the utility is taking to address the lead action level exceedance.

For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home/building and the health effects of lead, visit the EPA’s website or contact your health care provider.

Water quality test data for Green Bay Water Utility can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website by clicking here.

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