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Bordentown City officials provide update on efforts to address reported lead exceedances in homes

Bordentown City officials provided a recent update on their efforts to address the ongoing reports of lead exceedances in residents’ homes.

After the Bordentown City Board of Commissioners announced at a November meeting last year that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called on the municipality to enact additional testing for lead in the water of homes, municipal officials provided an update on their efforts to address the matter at the end of year.

Bordentown City Commissioner Joe Myers announced that the municipality was required by DEP to conduct additional samplings within the homes of Bordentown residents who reported an exceedance for lead measurements in their water.

As part of this DEP mandate, the municipality had to amend its corrective action plan to address the issue of lead exceedances experienced throughout the city over the last year.

Although reports of lead exceedances in multiple Bordentown homes have been ongoing for more than a year when the matter arose in 2017, city officials said they have been working since to address this problem. In addressing the matter, Myers said the municipality needed to implement a corrective action plan. The plan adopted by the city calls for four components: transparency, testing, education and equipment.

“Over the past two years, Bordentown City has worked diligently with our resident advisory committee, consultants, water experts, and the state with regards to developing and implementing a data driven approach to improving our water system,” Myers said in a statement. “Over this time, we have made substantial progress. Progress is rooted into four elements of our corrective action plan: transparency, testing, education and equipment. To exemplify this, the city tested the water at the plant and lead was not present.”

Myers explained that the city also tested at connections points into adjacent towns and said that lead was not present. Earlier this year, the commissioner explained that the city additionally tested several hydrants throughout its distribution system, including locations nearby homes with exceedances, and in all cases, the levels were “below the action level.”

In working with the DEP to address this matter, officials said the city’s water engineer worked with the DEP last year to implement a corrosion control treatment plan and that an Optimal Corrosion Control Treatment plan was submitted for approval, meeting standards as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and enforced by the DEP.

City officials said multiple tests conducted at the city’s main water source and water treatment plant, were reported with non-detectable lead levels, and to date, multiple digs have been conducted in the area to test the city’s water lines, which have all been reported as non-lead service lines with non-detectable readings as well.

As the search for the main cause of the reported lead issue within residences has the municipality and some homeowners turning their focuses to the fixtures of homes as a possible suspect, Myers said that the municipality has gathered data from voluntary tests on behalf of Bordentown residents as well as state-mandated samples that were taken.

Given the municipality’s stance on the matter, which officials said links the reported lead exceedances to inside the homes from potential issues with interior plumbing, Myers said the DEP then called for the municipality to conduct additional samplings for lead from fixtures within the homes.

Officials reported that their data found 75% of homes that experienced an exceedance also have lead solder in their interior plumbing, which presents a potential issue for residents with homes built before 1988. In homes built before 1988, lead piping and lead solder were commonly used in household plumbing systems as well as in service lines that connect homes to street water mains. In 1986, the EPA banned the use of lead pipes and lead solder in plumbing systems because excessive lead levels can present dangerous health risks. The EPA set an “action level” of .015 milligrams per liter of water for lead. EPA officials said that levels higher than that in water could pose a risk to human health.

“Furthermore, the city worked with our resident advisory committee to complete an asset management plan for our water system, posted the plan online, and currently implementing the recommendations outlined in the plan including the planned complete reconstruction of West Street in 2020, including the replacement of the water main and the city-owned section of all service connections,” Myers said. “In addition to these efforts, the city continues to offer free water testing for any resident. To date, as of November, the city has collected over 450 home samples. Results of this sampling have shown a gradual improvement in lowering lead levels, as seen in our study plan.”

In December, Myers explained that the Bordentown City Water Department concluded its lead compliance sampling for the second half of 2019. Officials said the city took 64 samples from its usual pool of homes. Of these homes, officials said seven of these samples had an exceedance. These samples were combined with the results of the system-wide customer request sampling.

“When totaled together, there were a total of 10 of 84 samples exceeded 15 parts per billion (ppb). Unfortunately, this means that the city exceeded in this current sampling round,” he said.

Although the municipality exceeded the sampling round, Myers noted that the city has seen improvement over the previous round of sampling, both in the percentage of samples exceeding the action level (19% in the previous period versus 12% in the current period) and the 90th percentile level (40 ppb versus 22 ppb).

“The city is continuing to work with the DEP in conducting the study, which is aimed at providing a more effective barrier to the leaching of lead from residential service lines and interior plumbing,” he said. “In coordination with the state, the city has conducted ‘sequential sampling’ in four homes that had exceedances. This is a detailed sampling effort where multiple small-volume samples are taken in order to locate where in the home lead is coming from.

“These homes have also had their service lines replaced, which will be analyzed to determine if lead is present in the scale on the walls of the pipe. The results of these tests will be used to further refine the scope of the corrosion control study,” he added.

Following the update, Myers explained that the city remains committed to “providing safe, reliable, lead-free water to its residents, that minimizes the dissolving of lead from residential piping and faucets.” Officials said they are also continuing the program of free lead testing to any resident who requests it, and are verifying the service line materials at many of the homes with exceedances, as well as testing portions of the interior plumbing for the presence of lead solder.

As part of enacting this plan, officials implemented improvements and upgrades to the city’s existing water treatment plant to ensure the distribution of safe drinking water to all households and businesses throughout its service area.

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