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December 3, 2017

Lead in Water: What went wrong in Flint, MI and what does it mean for Maine?

While the media coverage of the Flint, Michigan crisis has started to die down the health concerns associated with elevated lead levels in water still exist. For more information about the true story associated with the Flint, MI tragedy the PBS, NOVA video, Poisoned Water provides an in depth view into how the lead in water contamination crisis unfolded.  

You may be wondering, how does this affect me as a Maine resident? The Maine Drinking Water Program has been actively working to assess the situation in Maine.  You can obtain more information about their efforts and additional educational materials through their website. Lead is not naturally found in water and while Maine’s public drinking water sources and systems provide lead-free drinking water, lead can dissolve into water from plumbing fixtures and piping that contain lead, such as brass faucets and lead solder.

If you are concerned that you have lead in your home drinking water you may reach out to your public water utility or a state certified laboratory for more information about sampling and analyzing your water. If you test your water and the sample results indicate elevated lead levels there are several options for reducing lead levels in your drinking water, including:

  • Running the water for several seconds before consuming: The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.
  • Only use cold water for eating and drinking: Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get.
  • Installing an NSF certified filtration product: Many water filters and water treatment devices are certified by independent organizations for effective lead reduction. Devices that are not designed to remove lead will not work. Verify the claims of manufacturers by checking with independent certifying organizations that provide lists of treatment devices they have certified.
  • Removing/replacing plumbing pipes or fixtures that leach lead
  • Note that boiling water will NOT get rid of lead contamination.

For more information on this issue please refer to your local public water utility, the Maine Drinking Water Program, the Maine Water Utilities Association, the Maine Rural Water Association, the Maine Public Drinking Water Commission, and/or the USEPA.

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