Aug 9 2008

A resident in the South Blount Utility District said they got a notice of violation of safe drinking water standards indicating their drinking water was contaminated with high levels of lead.

According to the resident, the notice says the "action level" (upper limit) for lead in the water is .015 mg/l, and the June 2008 measurement was .075 mg/l, which is five times the allowable amount.

The notice reportedly said residents should run their water longer or consider using bottled drinking water.

Maybe an expert can explain how running your water longer will help if the lead is already in the water from the source? Also, it's too bad people are being advised to run their water longer in the middle of a drought. And not everyone can afford bottled drinking water.

Has anyone else received a similar notice? (We're on Alcoa city water, and it usually gets A+ reports and I don't recall ever receiving such a notice.)

At any rate, does anyone know if Mayor Jerry Cunningham has advised the South Blount Utility commissioners to do something about the lead in South Blount Utility water if they want to keep their jobs?

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation says "Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure."

UPDATE: This is not the first time. The utility had violations in February of this year. District manager Henry Durant said at the time "We're out of compliance, and we're desperately trying to find a solution." There were also violations in 2006.

SBUD says the problem is with older homes which have copper plumbing with lead solder on joints. This is why running the water longer is supposed to help. According to TDEC, utilities that test positive for lead in drinking water at the tap are supposed to treat the water with a "corrosion inhibitor," which is a "substance capable of reducing the corrosivity of water toward metal plumbing materials, especially lead and copper, by forming a protective film on the interior surface of those materials." Sounds tasty! Does anyone know if SBUD has done this?

So now the question is, why the big rush to add fluoride to the water? It would seem that lead in the water is a serious, well documented, well understood problem in terms of its effects on human health. Shouldn't removing lead take priority over adding fluoride? Has Mayor Cunningham remarked on the levels of lead in SBUD drinking water, or offered a plan to address the problem?

UPDATE: The Maryville Daily Times reports today (Aug. 13) that SBUD says the problem is isolated to older homes with lead pipe or plumbing with lead solder and that they do not have any supply lines with lead pipes. According to the article, SBUD says they took steps in June to implement changes recommended by a Virginia expert regarding anti-corrosion treatment of the water. The article says the problem has been ongoing since 2006, but does not say if anti-corrosion treatment was added before June of this year as required by law. The article also quotes the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as saying the utility is still out of compliance but improving. The article doesn't mention if Mayor Cunningham has been involved in monitoring the situation or working with SBUD on solving the problem.

Lead in drinking water

Lead in public drinking water is NOT coming from the source, it is coming from the customer's plumbing. The customer apparently has copper pipe with lead solder, therefore, if he/she runs the water for 30 seconds or more the lead from his/her plumbing from the lead solder will be flushed out with the utility's fresh water.

ONLY people who have lead solder are affected. The best thing to do is to change out your plumbing if you don't want to flush your line for 30 seconds or more, if you are concerned about the lead level. This applies only if the water has set in the affected plumbing for 6 hours or more, usually when you first get up in the morning or come home from work.

Again, the result that the customer got (0.75 mg/l) is due to the lead in the customer's plumbing, not the utility's water. Every water system in the United States must check these affected homes on a regular basis and report what they find to the customer.

The notice of running the water longer is up to the customer. He/she has the's now up to the customer to decide whether he/she wants to take the precaution.

If you don't have copper pipe with lead solder, then you don't have this problem with lead.

So, welcome thrdognite

So, welcome thrdognite member of 26 minutes.

My understanding is that this is not isolated to one person's home, but instead determined from sampling of hundreds of homes according to state regulations, and a threshold that was met based on all the sampling.

Regardless, you SEEM to be knowledgeable about all this.

So what about the regulations that say the utility company has to take remedial action when they are "out of compliance," (as the general manager stated in February)? Can you tell us more about that, and whether SBUD has taken these steps?

Lead core Solder

A friend of mine who's worked with South Blount Utilities for about 15 years told me about the latest Lead scare. The pipes carrying water down the road are probably plastic. Depending on the age of your house, the pipes from the street to your house are either galvanized pipe or plastic. Up until this point there are no solder joints and therefore no Lead near the water. The pipes inside the house, if copper, are joined together with solder. If and only if you have copper pipe inside, plumbed in the 1970's, then there's a good chance that there are elevated levels of Lead in the solder joints. Over the years, the level of Lead has been reduced in solder, in favor of Tin and Silver. Some RoHS approved solder has no Lead at all; however in the electronics world these new RoHS solders can actually grow whiskers that wind up shorting out sensitive high density devices.

P.S. God rest Bobby Bolivia's soul.

viva Evo Morales


I don't know whether or not SBUD has implemented a corrosion inhibitor or not, (I don't live in your community), but if they have, it's not like waving a magic wand and problem solved overnight. You implied that the water was coming from the source and it is not. It is due to the leaching of lead from the customer's indoor plumbing due to lead solder with copper pipe. Fortunately, lead solder has been banned.

Anyway, the application of a corrosion inhibitor to a water distribution system takes time to work. Maybe months or even a couple of years, depending on how quickly the utility can pull it through by flushing hydrants and blow-offs. So, in the meantime, the customer has a notice that states for them to run their cold water for a while or consider bottled water. They don't have to do either, but if it's my house I'm going to consider replacing the plumbing because lead solder was banned for a reason. If I can't afford to replace the plumbing, then I'll run the water for 30 seconds or so. That is not a big deal and it won't increase the water bill but by a few cents, if any.

You'd be shocked at how many regulations water systems must abide by these days. Regs increase each year and they are costly. Yet, most water providers have tried their best to hold down the cost of your water bill while facing thousands of dollars in laboratory costs each year. Bottled water, on the other hand, has few regulations to deal with because they are "regulated" by the FDA. Your public water supplier is regulated by the EPA and the State.

You implied that the water

You implied that the water was coming from the source and it is not.

So I guess you didn't read the rest of the post with the update.

And how do you know it's not coming from the source? Have you gone and inspected their intakes and supply lines? Do you have personal knowledge of their system? Please share.

And you say a corrosion inhibitor isn't a magic wand. But shouldn't they at least be doing what is required by law? Nobody has answered yet whether they have or not. Hopefully they have.

And boo hoo about regulations costing money. The flip side of that argument is that taxpayers end up paying the the social and environmental costs, one way or another. Privatized profits, socialized costs: The New American Way!

So, who do you work for? A public utility PR firm? An anti-environmental lobby?



Lead & copper

I dont understand why that this is such a problem if you dont even get your water from south blount. It appears you probably have too much time on your hands. But Im sure if you have the answers to the problem that the board of comissioners would be glad to listen to you.And I have it by a good source that south blount has been adding a corroision inhib since 2006

lead & copper

First of all mr neal obviously you have too much time on your hands if you dont even live on the south blount system but use your time to talk about something you have no clue of. #1 the utility is not sponserd by tax dollars it is a non proffit organization ran totally by water coustomers paying their bill. #2 It is my understanding that they are treating the water with a corrosion inhibator that was recomended by a water chemist @ Virginia Tech. He probably has more knowledge of water than you or I have.# 3 It is my understanding that they have tested in about 60 homes in their district and just a few of them are out of compliance and they think that by december they will have a handle on this situation. I would imagine that if you are serious about this issue you could call the south blount office and they could answer your questions in just a few minutes.

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