Headlines about lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water has communities across the country wondering about the state of their own potable water systems, and if they also contain the toxic substance.
In a press release, the California State Water Board announced that it’s released a new digital map that highlights which community water systems have reported the presence of lead pipes and fixtures.
The map uses data from nearly 3,000 water systems throughout the state and places the information on an easy-to-read, color-coded document that is expected to change as testing continues.
There is much to be happy about. Many of the Golden State’s water systems appear to be entirely lead-free, but the story is far from complete. Over 400 systems have yet to provide enough complete data to provide an accurate picture.
The collected information included plenty of omissions, critical data fields left blank and errors, requiring State Water Board staff to spend months calling water systems to confirm the data. Over 1,000 water systems submitted incomplete information during the first data download.
“The good news is that we only have four water systems that report having lead lines,” says Kurt Souza, assistant deputy director for drinking water operations in Southern California, adding that another 31 water systems have lead fittings. He went on to say that “the State Water Board doesn’t anticipate seeing much more lead found, based on the data reviewed so far.”
According to the new map, many of the lead pipes and fittings are in the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento, much of it installed during World War II and shortly afterward. Lead pipes were banned in the 1980s.
California has been addressing the issue in a number of ways, including passing legislation requiring testing for lead in the drinking water at schools and daycare facilities. The State Water Board is also awarding millions in grants for schools in economically disadvantaged areas to replace lead fixtures or offer alternative ways to access safe drinking water.
The law defines lead hardware as anything that connects the main water line to individual water meters. Water systems with lead pipes and fixtures are required to provide the State Water Board with a schedule for replacement by July 1, 2020.
Any member of the public can click on a specific service area in the online map to open a pop-up window and get information about the condition of pipes and fittings within a particular service area. The map is divided into four categories: 1, Lead in the system, 2, no lead in the system, 3, unknown service lines or material and 4, Incomplete information.
The map may be accessed via this link: https://gispublic.waterboards.ca.gov/portal/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=7adcfc6473614ada9c0b9c351362a656