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Paynesville Press - October 9,2002

Testing reveals city's drinking water is safe

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Water testing in the city of Paynesville has indicated that the city's drinking water is safe, at least in regards to lead and copper.

In August, water samples were taken from 10 homes in Paynesville. The water was tested for lead and copper and, according to Ron Mergen, public works director for the city of Paynesville, the results were very good.

The testing is part of the Minnesota Department of Health's lead and copper program and is done every three years.

The allowable amount of copper in drinking water is 1,300 parts per billion. The highest amount of copper in a sample taken from Paynesville was 494 parts per billion.

The allowable amount of lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion. The highest amount in a sample from Paynesville was nine parts per billion. Four of the homes tested had less than two parts per billion.

Copper and lead are metals commonly found in a home's plumbing fixtures. Exposure to large amounts of either metal can be dangerous, especially to children.

Copper is used in the pipes of most household plumbing systems. It's an essential element humans need small amounts for good health but too much copper can cause problems, especially in children under one year of age.

Copper is dissolved by water in the pipes and ends up in drinking water. New plumbing is more likely to leach copper as old pipes have developed a coating that acts as a barrier.

Lead is also a metal that is commonly found in household plumbing, especially in older homes which may have lead pipes or which may have copper pipes with connections that are sealed with lead solder.

"This means that Paynesville has good, noncorrosive water," said Mergen. Water that is corrosive will break down pipes faster so there would be more lead and copper in the water, he explained.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, children exposed to high levels of lead could have serious health problems including developmental delays as lead can affect the developing brain. Water testing was done in homes that were chosen in part because of the type of plumbing they had, said Mergen. The samples had to be divided between homes with lead service or with copper and lead solder installed between the years 1983 to 1986.

The samples were taken from water that had been in the pipes for at least six hours to ensure the highest concentrations of lead and copper.

The water testing program began in 1993 and initially required annual testing. Since 1999, testing has been reduced to every three years. Test results have been similar every year, said Mergen.

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