Aging Out

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it had worked with three New Jersey school districts to successfully lower lead levels in their drinking water. Testing in 2010 and 2011 found elevated lead levels in approximately 8% of the outlets it tested at the Atlantic City, Union City and Weehawken school districts. The districts resolved the problem through a variety of methods, from filtration to replacing fixtures to simply shutting off those outlets. The latest round of testing showed that lead levels were within acceptable EPA limits.

Lead has long been a contamination bogeyman when it comes to kids—it can hurt their ability to learn, along with myriad other issues—so a success story when it comes to lead reduction is good news. It also highlights a larger problem, however. Because lead in source water is uncommon, it is likely that the lead in the New Jersey schools’ water was the result of corroding lead pipes, fittings or solder. The federal low-lead law, set to take effect in 2014, will help in fixing this problem when it comes to new materials, but it is the existing infrastructure that may continue to cause issues.

“Aging infrastructure” has become a buzz phrase in recent years. It has been featured in everything from specials on the History Channel to President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union speech, so it is clear that this issue is on the forefront.
Allan Connolly, vice president of operations and engineering for Culligan, cited the standard statistic in this month’s Industry Insight: Infrastructure is generally made to last 50 years, but much of America’s is around 75 years old. “You can imagine what it looks like on the inside of a pipe that is 75 years old,” he said. (For more from Connolly on aging infrastructure and the challenges the nation faces, see page 50.)

Lead leaching from pipes is not the only concern when it comes to aging water infrastructure—corroded pipes can lead to leaks, which in turn can result in contamination from other sources. In short, the quality of the water as it leaves a water treatment plant is not necessarily the same as the quality of the water that comes out of our taps.

As municipalities and companies across the nation work to update U.S. water infrastructure, the water quality industry has an important role to play in mitigating contamination risks. Parts of this role include providing treatment solutions for homeowners when contamination concerns arise, and educating customers on what is really in their drinking water when it comes to both contaminant and aesthetic concerns.

WQA Aquatech USA 2012
Like many of you, I am in the midst of planning my trip to WQA Aquatech USA 2012 in Las Vegas this month. There will be plenty to see, do and learn through the exhibition and education sessions, and I am excited to meet some of you at the show, as well as see some of the familiar faces I have met at industry events. Be sure to stop by the Water Quality Products booth, #133. For more on what to expect at the show, see our show preview on page 20. We look forward to seeing you there!
 

Kate Cline is managing editor for Water Quality Products. Cline can be reached at kcline@sgcmail.com or 847.391.1007.

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