Our Lead Management Program: Ensuring Safety, Quality and Education

 

As Michigan continues to struggle with lead contamination in Flint's water source, we are reminded of the importance of water quality standards and the vital role that utilities play in their home communities--for public health, and for public education.

 

We take our promise to protect you and your water very seriously. Spartanburg Water can assure you that your drinking water exceeds all state and federal standards for clean drinking water, and for those that regulate and protect against lead in water systems.

 

Of course, all this talk about state and federal standards can get confusing. The real question on everybody's minds is this: Is our drinking water safe from lead? The answer is a resounding yes.

 

Since the inception of the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991, Spartanburg Water has an unblemished record: We have never exceeded action levels for lead. But our commitment to safety and quality has a much longer history that extends beyond the 25 years since the Environmental Protection Agency strengthened the regulations for monitoring lead. For many years prior to the implementation of the rule, Spartanburg Water has employed technology to keep lead out of your water.

 

Our Lead Management Program is based on a multi-tiered strategy:

  • Corrosion Control
  • Maintaining a Team of Highly Skilled Water Professionals
  • Customer Service
  • Public Education

Spartanburg Water's stellar record is based on a strong, consistent history of exceeding rigorous water quality requirements for a variety of substances, including lead. In fact, our stringent monitoring demonstrates that lead levels are well below the criteria established by the EPA and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

 

We continuously monitor the quality of your water. In fact, we perform more than 250 tests each day to ensure that the water you drink is safe. This continuous monitoring validates the work of our dedicated team, and is evidenced by the fact that we are an active and award-winning member of the Partnership for Safe Water, a national volunteer initiative developed by an unprecedented alliance of six prestigious drinking water organizations: American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, National Association of Water Companies, EPA, and the Water Research Foundation--all striving to provide communities with drinking water quality that surpasses the required federal standards. To that end, we recently won several awards that validate our success: The AWWA recently named our R.B. Simms and Landrum water treatment facilities as the recipients of its Partnership for Safe Drinking Water Directors Awards.

 

Corrosion Control

 

Spartanburg Water has no lead service lines in use, and our water does not contain lead when it leaves our treatment plants in Spartanburg and Landrum. In fact, lead is rarely found in source water, but can enter tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials in customers' homes. As part of our process to ensure the safety of our water and minimize the presence of lead, Spartanburg Water employs "corrosion inhibitors," a special technology that is applied in our drinking water treatment process. It helps form a protective coating on the walls of water pipes that prevents lead and copper from leaching out of pipes and plumbing fixtures and causing water quality issues, including the plumbing within our customers' homes.

 

We began installing copper water service lines in the late 1960s to the very early 1970s. Prior to the use of copper pipe, galvanized pipe was used from the water main to the meter. To make the connection between the water main and the galvanized pipe, a short section of lead pipe, known as a "gooseneck," was used to allow ease of bending and alignment to complete the connection. While some are still in service, we replace "goosenecks" when water lines are rehabilitated and replaced.

 

An estimated 2,000 "gooseneck" connections were replaced prior to the mid-1980s. We estimate that 2,100 lead "gooseneck" connections currently remain in service.

 

We are confident that our best practice processes for lead control and reduction are effective. Spartanburg Water's corrosion control processes are successful in preventing lead from the entering the water. This is substantiated by our compliance record with the Lead and Copper Rule. Again, Spartanburg Water has never exceeded an action level for lead.

 

A Highly Skilled Team

 

Spartanburg Water employs highly skilled water professionals to ensure that each drop of water that reaches a customer's tap is of the highest quality. Water Treatment and Water Distribution Operators employed by Spartanburg Water go through rigorous training and licensure requirements to become certified in their chosen field. Coupled with our experienced laboratory personnel and management staff, the community's water rests in the hands of experts who are committed to keeping our water safe. This team is consistently recognized by the industry for its skill, illustrated by the many awards and recognition that our staff receives annually, not only for compliance, but also for innovation. Our water professionals are one of Spartanburg County's greatest assets.

 

Click here to read about our most recent awards.

 

Public Education

 

Each year, we produce a Water Quality Report that provides the information you need as a consumer to understand how Spartanburg Water measures up to the standards set by the EPA and DHEC. That report, which is available by clicking here, provides you a comprehensive view of our record for meeting--and exceeding--water quality requirements and regulations, including those for the presence of lead in the water system. A big part of our commitment to the community is sharing information about our water and making it available to everyone, and we encourage you to review the report to see for yourself.

 

Here is a snapshot of our lead data, as featured in the Water Quality Report:

 

 

This data indicate that both Spartanburg and Landrum are in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule and under the EPA's action levels for lead in the most recent reporting year for Water Quality data. The chart provides validation that both Spartanburg and Landrum systems are in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule. Because we test for lead in customers' homes, a trace amount was detected in one of the 20 sampling locations at a customer's tap, but not in the water system, in Landrum. Despite this trace amount, both Spartanburg and Landrum water systems are in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

 

The Lead and Copper Rule requires that all testing occurs in the most vulnerable locations, according to the EPA. Also, the rule maintains that we test for lead in customers' homes. Spartanburg Water operates two water systems, as defined by EPA and DHEC: one serving the greater Spartanburg area, and one serving Landrum. The number of monitoring locations for each system is specified in the Lead and Copper Rule based on the population served by each system. Thus, in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule, Spartanburg Water tests for lead in 50 homes in the Spartanburg service area, and 20 homes in Landrum every three years. In June, Spartanburg Water will begin its new round of sampling to ensure the safety of our water and to maintain our compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

 

Customer Service

 

Although lead has not been a common source material for water pipes since the early 1900s, many older homes may still be equipped with lead pipes. Upon request, Spartanburg Water will provide customers with a home testing kit and evaluate the water in its lab for free. There are also many ways for homeowners to keep their water free from lead, including letting your tap run for a few seconds to ensure that lead is washed out of your pipes. For more information, please visit http://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/lead-and-copper-rule.

 

Spartanburg Water begins each day with a singular mission: To provide quality water and wastewater services to our region in a reliable manner. But, why? Because this is our water. It's the water that we all drink. It's the water that sustains us and unites us, our families and our community. Spartanburg Water is our water and we will stop at nothing short of excellence to protect it. So, is our water safe? Yes. And we hope that you'll share that message when you hear others ask the same question. Great things are on the horizon, and our future, with your help, is as clear as a tall, cold glass of Spartanburg Water.

 

Links for Additional Information:

 

Lead: Frequently Asked Questions

Click each question for a drop-down box with the answer.

  • What is the Lead and Copper Rule?

    Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials.

    In 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). Since 1991 the LCR has undergone various revisions.

    The treatment technique for the rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 parts per million in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.

  • How does the public know if Lead and Copper Rule levels have been exceeded?

    If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.

    While the LCR rule applies to water utilities, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act sets standards for:

    • pipe,
    • plumbing fittings,
    • fixtures,
    • solder  
    • and flux
  • What is the difference between the Lead and Copper Rule and the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act?

    Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) establishes the definition for “lead free” as a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead calculated across the wetted surfaces of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting, and fixture and 0.2 percent lead for solder and flux. The Act also provides a methodology for calculating the weighted average of wetted surfaces.

    The Act prohibits the “use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of any public water system; or any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead free.” 

    Additionally there is a prohibition on introducing a pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux that is not lead free into commerce; unless the use is for manufacturing or industrial purposes. 

    The SDWA includes several exemptions from the lead free requirements, specifically for plumbing devices that are used exclusively for nonpotable services, as well as a list of specific products: toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, fire hydrants, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles, or water distribution main gate valves that are two inches in diameter or larger.

           Currently the EPA is conducting a rulemaking to clarify issues related to the lead prohibition.

  • What does Spartanburg Water do to prevent lead in the water system?

    We use best practices in our water treatment process to keep lead out of your water—and our stellar compliance record proves that. As part of our process to ensure the safety of our water and minimize the presence of lead, Spartanburg Water employs “corrosion inhibitors,” a special technology that is applied in our drinking water treatment process. It helps form a protective coating on the walls of water pipes that prevents lead and copper from leaching out of pipes and plumbing fixtures and causing water quality issues, including the plumbing within our customers’ homes.

           Spartanburg Water employed corrosion control well before the LCR went into effect in 1991.

  • Has Spartanburg Water ever exceeded an action level for lead as set by the Lead and Copper Rule?

    No. Our highest source water levels for lead are well below the action levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency and DHEC. In our entire history as a utility, we have never exceeded an action level for lead, or copper.

  • How many locations in the system do you test for lead?

    The LCR requires that all testing occurs in the most vulnerable locations, according to the EPA. Also, the rule maintains that we test for lead in customers’ homes. Spartanburg Water operates two water systems as defined by EPA and DHEC, one serving the greater Spartanburg area, and one serving Landrum.  The number of monitoring locations for each system is specified in the LCR based on the population served by each system, thus, in compliance with the LCR, Spartanburg Water tests for lead in 50 homes in the Spartanburg service area, and 20 homes in Landrum.

  • Are there lead water lines still in use?

    No. Spartanburg began installing copper water service lines in the late 1960s to the very early 1970s. Prior to the use of copper pipe, galvanized pipe was used from the meter to the water main. To make the connection between the water main and the galvanized pipe, a short section of lead pipe known as a “gooseneck” was used to allow ease of bending and alignment to complete the connection. The “gooseneck” connectors used by Spartanburg Water were approximately 18” in length.

  • Do we still use goosenecks?

    While some are still in service, we replace goosenecks when water lines are rehabilitated and replaced. An estimated 2,000 gooseneck connections were replaced prior to the mid 1980s. We estimate that 2,100 lead gooseneck connections currently remain in service.

    Until the mid-1980s, Spartanburg Water only replaced the gooseneck connection with a section of copper pipe on water service lines that were leaking when the galvanized pipe was found to be in good condition. This was done in lieu of replacing the entire service line. This practice was stopped when state, city and county road divisions began requiring permits and a concrete sub-base for all street cuts. The associated cost to repair the roadway was too great not to take into consideration replacement of the entire service at the time of the initial excavation. Today’s practice is to replace the entire service line from the water main to the meter box.

  • If goosenecks contain even a small amount of lead, how do we know that the lead doesn’t get into the water system?

    We are confident that our best practice processes for lead control and reduction are effective. Spartanburg Water’s corrosion control processes are successful in preventing lead from entering the water. This is substantiated by our compliance record with the LCR. Again, Spartanburg Water has never exceeded an action level for lead. 

  • How often does Spartanburg Water test for lead in the system?

    Every three years. Because of our stellar compliance record, the EPA reduced the amount of monitoring that we are required to perform. However, if external factors indicate challenges, we do test for lead, among other metals, in other points of the water system.

    In June, Spartanburg Water will begin a new round of sampling at 50 different sites to ensure the safety of our water and to maintain our compliance with the LCR. The LCR was implemented in 1991 to limit the concentration of lead and copper that is allowed in public drinking water from a customer’s tap, as well as the amount of corrosion in the pipes used to distribute the water.

  • If a customer is concerned about lead, what can they do?

    Although lead has not been a common source material for water pipes since the early 1900s, many older homes may still be equipped with lead pipes.

    Spartanburg Water will provide customers with a home testing kit and evaluate the water in its lab. There are also many ways for homeowners to keep their water free from lead, including letting your tap run for a few seconds to ensure that lead is washed out of your pipes. For more information, please visit http://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/lead-and-copper-rule.

  • Most of the discussion is about lead, but doesn’t the LCR also address copper in the system?

           The human body has a natural mechanism for maintaining the proper level of copper in it.

    Water is one of the ways that copper may enter our bodies. The EPA has established an "action level" for copper in drinking water. This action level is exceeded if the level of copper in more than 10 percent of the tap water samples collected by a water system is greater than 1,300 parts per billion.

  • What is Spartanburg Water doing about copper?

    As with lead, we are confident that our best practice processes for lead and copper control and reduction are effective. Spartanburg Water’s corrosion control processes are successful in preventing copper from entering the water. This is substantiated by our compliance record with the LCR.

  • Where can I find out more about Spartanburg Water’s water quality?

    We produce our annual Water Quality Report to inform customers about monitoring results and the quality of their drinking water. This report is prepared in accordance with the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act Amendment. Our tap water surpasses the EPA’s strict health standards. To view the report, visit www.spartanburgwater.org/waterqualityreport.