Seventeen separate US Government departments and agencies are now collaborating to advance efforts aimed at “remediating health hazards to keep children safe from lead poisoning.” The four goals of the Lead Action Plan are:
- Goal 1: Reduce Children’s Exposure to Lead Sources
- Goal 2: Identify Lead-Exposed Children and Improve their Health Outcomes
- Goal 3: Communicate More Effectively with Stakeholders
- Goal 4: Support and Conduct Critical Research to Inform Efforts to Reduce Lead Exposures and Related Health Risks
When people ponder the aging US infrastructure, they typically think about roads, bridges, and highways. However, as we have learned from events in Flint Michigan, a critical (and failing) piece of aging infrastructure is also the drinking water distribution systems of our communities and the buildings within those communities. Flint was a microcosm of water system corrosion problems underway throughout the USA. Old pipes or their soldered connections often contain lead. When exposed to the corrosive effects of water, over time the metallurgy breaks down and lead is “leached” into the drinking water, producing a health risk of substantial proportions. Lead is a heavy metal known to cause serious health problems, especially in children.
While proactive steps may be taken by Municipal Water Authorities to mitigate/reduce lead leaching, unfortunately these steps can also have unexpected downstream effects. Raising pH for example to minimize corrosion in the distribution system can lead to new problems with corrosion in galvanized cooling towers (white rust), or can affect the dosing and selection of certain microbial control chemicals. Also, addition of passivating inhibitors to domestic water streams can introduce unexpected levels of new deposit-producing species.
So, Building Managers need to be educated, proactive and flexible in managing their own water systems. Awareness of the actions taken by local Municipal Water Authorities is an essential aspect of balancing the water system needs of buildings where that water is used for potable and heat transfer purposes. Testing for lead and various contaminants is now of elevated importance, and should be added to building water quality action planning. This is a new challenge, separate from the continued need to screen for water borne pathogens.
John D. Caloritis, CWT