Lead & Byproduct FAQs
What are disinfection byproducts (DBPs)?
Disinfection, sometimes referred to loosely as chlorination, is a necessary part of the water treatment process. Disinfection is typically done by adding small amounts of a chlorine-based disinfectant to water. It destroys water-borne microbes, bacteria, and viruses — organisms that can cause serious illnesses or death. Typhoid and cholera, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in global epidemics, have been controlled in the United States through the addition of disinfectant to drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the quality of drinking water on a federal level. Its regulations cover acceptable, safe levels of microorganisms, disinfectant, and disinfection byproducts. For more information visit our section on Disinfection Byproducts.
In December 2005, after a lengthy review process which included water providers and environmental groups, the EPA added two new rules to the Safe Drinking Water Act: one modifies the old rules for measuring the byproducts of disinfecting potable water (DBP2) and the other regulates protection against disease-causing microorganisms (LT2).
The LT2 regulation deals primarily with Cryptosporidium. Warren Water has been monitoring for “Crypto” for decades, and testing has never detected any in treated water (and very little if any in the raw water). The situation regarding disinfection byproducts (DBPs) is not so simple, though.
Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) form when chlorine and other disinfectants react with naturally occurring materials in the Barren River.
The term “disinfection byproducts” covers a host of compounds that may be formed after water is treated. Depending on the substances present in the water, a wide range of byproducts may be created. But the only reliable approach to protecting against bacteria in drinking water is to add a disinfectant, which must travel with the water, in small amounts, all the way to your tap. Any disinfectant creates disinfection byproducts. There is little evidence that these chemicals are dangerous at the level they occur in treated water, but research on the potential effects of specific compounds raised concerns with the EPA.
Like many problems, there is no easy answer. As the EPA report says, “Decreasing disinfection byproduct risk could increase risks from disease-causing microorganisms.” The paradox is as old as the use of fire to keep warm: It keeps you from freezing, but it also produces ash and carbon monoxide.
The treatment process is critical to controlling the formation of haloacetic acids in water. Warren Water is working with our water supplier, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, on the implementation of disinfection improvements that will reduce formation of haloacetic acids. While these improvements will take time, Warren Water will continue to optimize our system performance. Warren Water continually performs numerous tests to ensure your drinking water is safe. Warren Water tests the purity of the water over 1,000 times a year to ensure the safety of your drinking water.
How dangerous are disinfection byproducts?
Some medical research suggests that specific DBPs (total trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, referred to as TTHMs and HAA5) may slightly increase the risk of a variety of medical conditions. Previous studies have not provided definitive results, only sparse and inconsistent findings. But even the possibility of very minor effects is a concern to water systems and the public, which is why the EPA has established maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for the suspect DBPs.
Why do people have concerns about lead in water?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is all around us. It was used for many years in paints, plumbing and other products found in and around homes. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that lead can cause health problems if it accumulates in a person’s body over time. While lead in tap water is rarely the single cause of lead poisoning, it can increase a person’s total lead exposure.
High levels of lead in your household drinking water can have significant health impacts, especially for children and pregnant women. Warren Water tests for lead every three years and has never exceeded the EPA action level. For more information visit our section on Lead.
Is lead found in Barren River?
Lead isn’t present in the Barren River, which is the water source for Bowling Green and Warren County. It isn’t found in water when it leaves the BGMU treatment plant or travels through the water mains in our system. Warren County Water District does not have any lead service lines. The most common source of trace amounts of lead in treated drinking water is a customer’s plumbing.
How do I reduce the risk of lead in my tap water?
There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of exposure to lead through drinking water from your home plumbing.
Look for potential sources.
If you have them, consider replacing:
- Customer side service lines and household pipes made of lead or galvanized iron.
- Lead solder connecting your household pipes.
- Brass faucets, valves and fittings.
If you are hiring someone to test, repair or replace your service line, household pipes or fixtures, we recommend using an experienced, licensed plumber.
Particles can collect in faucets’ tips, at the aerator screen. Remove and clean aerators every month, and replace them each year.
If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, you can request a lead test by contacting McCoy & McCoy Laboratories, Inc. at (270) 821-7375 or ESC Lab Sciences at (615) 758-5858.
If you are considering purchasing a home treatment device, choose a water filter designated with NSF International certification for lead removal.
When you haven’t used water for several hours, run the cold-water tap for a couple of minutes, until water gets noticeably colder. The lower temperature indicates you cleared water that was standing in pipes. (To conserve, catch the flushed tap water for household uses such as watering plants or cleaning.)
Use cold water whenever you are preparing food and beverages, including cooking, making ice and preparing infant formula. Hot water dissolves lead faster and is likely to contain higher levels of lead if present.
Do home water treatment devices exist?
Yes. To reduce your risk of exposure to lead in drinking water, you may want to consider purchasing a home water treatment device, or water filter. When purchasing, look for filters certified to remove lead by NSF International. Filters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, technologies and prices.
Common types include:
Pitcher-style filters. Designed to work like a coffeemaker, these inexpensive filters are simple to use. Just pour water in the top, and it trickles down into a pitcher that generally holds half a gallon of water. They can be slow and have limited capacity.
Faucet-mounted filters. These small filters are easy to install, because they screw directly onto the faucet nozzle. Most units feature a bypass valve so you only filter water used for drinking. They often require frequent filter changes.
Under-sink filters. These work like the faucet-mounted models, except they process far more water. Since most lack a bypass, you filter a lot of water not used for drinking. Installation may require a plumber.
Be sure to maintain a water filter as instructed by the manufacturer.