Backyard Talk

Drinking Water –Topped the List of Calls for Assistance

Fortunately CHEJ was able to help community after community with questions and concerns about their water. Moms, dads and individuals panicked ask for help – what can we do to protect our children – ourselves?
CHEJ scientists were there to answer questions about toxicity, safe levels and health impacts from exposure.  We were there to help because you were there — providing the resources through contributions large and small. Thank you for making sure we were able to respond to the many people who needed advice from a trusted person.
Here’s a few of their introductory sentences.
“There is dioxin in our drinking water.”  Houston, Texas
“There’s a licorice smell when I turn on the tap water.” Charleston, West Virginia
“We have lead in the nurse’s station faucet at our elementary school.” Ithaca, New York
“EPA said don’t drink the water it has a toxic chemical in it.”  Flint, Michigan
“We need protection from coal ash in our drinking water.” Uniontown, Alabama
“The water in our childcare center has flame retardant chemicals.” Portsmouth, NH
“State says don’t drink, bath or use the water at all – it contains a solvent that’s dangerous.” Corpus Christi, Texas
“The water stinks but we’re told it is fine to drink. Where can I test my water?” Portland, Oregon
Unfortunately, the issue around safe drinking water are not going away any day soon. In fact some believe the trend toward unsafe water is more likely to continue. Why? Not because there is more pollution that will contaminated the water, although there might likely be more. It’s because people are now demanding that schools, day care facilities and water suppliers provide a yearly test that includes lead, copper and other contaminates. Parents and teachers are asking that all child related facilities test yearly and share the results of the water samples with parents, staff and school boards immediately.
This testing is not routine and when it is done the results are rarely shared with the public. Therefore, places where children have been exposed for years, will surface and concerned people will be looking for trusted advice.
Thanks to your continued support CHEJ will be there to pick up the phone and provide the assistance needed. Please join us again this year so we can be there for people in crisis and provide honest answers to their questions.

Backyard Talk

EPA Switches Stance on Testing Lead in Drinking Water

The fiasco in Flint, MI has forced an important change in EPA’s recommended protocols for testing lead in drinking water. In a memo to state health and water administrators issued February 29, 2016, the US EPA reversed its prior recommendations on how to sample drinking water targeted for lead testing. The new protocols are as follows:

  • Do not remove or clean faucet aerators prior to collecting samples
  • Do not pre-flush prior to sampling
  • Use wide mouth sample bottles to allow water flow to enter at a rate similar to what consumers might use when pouring a glass of water to drink

In the past, EPA‘s advice was to pre-clean the aerator, flush pipes prior to sampling, and open the tap slowly and sample at low flow. Using these guidelines results in less particulate lead getting into the sample and thus finding lower lead concentrations in the water. Removing or cleaning an aerator prior to testing masks the added contribution of lead at the tap that results from the lead in the aerator. Flushing the pipe prior to sampling eliminates the lead that has built up overnight or since the last time the faucet was used. Pouring the water slowly, whether by using a narrow container or by just opening the tap slowly, also reduces particulate lead that gets into the water by not disturbing lead present in the pipe as much as a normal flush would. These inaccurate procedures were called to task by Dr. Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech University who found high levels of lead in the drinking water in Flint, MI.
Despite the fact that this is not what people typically do when they pour a glass of water from the sink to drink, these are the sampling procedures that EPA has been advocating for years and what water companies have been using for years to measure lead in drinking water. By using these procedures, water companies everywhere, not just in Flint, are not accurately measuring the lead concentration in drinking water, and they are potentially missing a significant portion of the lead actually in the drinking water systems. Doing this provides a false sense of security that seriously endangers public health.
Although EPA has issued these new guidelines, there’s no guarantee that water companies around the country have switched to the new sampling procedures. If you’re concerned about the lead levels in your water, find out what sampling procedures are being used because it makes a huge difference. While we can thank the public attention given to the disaster in Flint for this critically important change, now we need to make sure that testing agencies across the country follow this new protocol. Contact CHEJ at to obtain a copy of this important memo.