LSU researchers keep close eye on lead problem

LSU researchers keep close eye on lead problem

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Each day when millions of gallons of water leaves the plant, it's lead-free. That's not always the case when the water reaches your home in New Orleans.

Sixty-five to 80 percent of water lines across the city are pure lead. It's part of the preliminary results of a three-year study by researchers at LSU School of Public Health.

"This concern about lead and water really gained public attention in 2015 with the Flint, Michigan water crisis," says Adrienne Katner.

Researcher Katner says what most people don't know is that the water in Flint met the EPA's regulatory requirements. The national standard for concern about lead in water is 15 parts per billion.

So far, researchers collected more than 1,000 samples in Orleans Parish and found about 2 percent of those samples exceed the national standard. Still, researchers say there really is not safe level of lead.

"Just about every home we sampled, about 95 percent of the sites we sampled, had detectable lead," says Katner.

There's also concern about the way testing is being done.

Cedric Grant with Sewerage and Water Board says current testing with a two-minute line flush follows the EPA guidelines. Researchers, however, say flushing water to clear lead doesn't always work, despite common advice to flush for 30 seconds to two minutes.

"The problem is the water that is actually coming out of your tap at 30 seconds or 2 minutes maybe more indicative of water that's sitting in your service line. This can be the biggest contributor to lead in water," says Katner.

According to the study, half of the homes tested after flushing showed higher levels of lead.

The full study won't be complete until the summer of 2018.

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