The contamination of the Flint, Michigan, drinking water system has increased awareness of the issues associated with childhood exposure to lead which can suppress growth, decrease IQ scores, and lead to convulsions, coma, and death. The Flint water crisis triggered a nationwide call for water testing – for lead – a substance many thought had been managed with the phasing out of leaded gas and paints.
On February 15, 2018, USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt convened a meeting of fellow cabinet members and their departments to develop a national strategy to protect children from lead exposure and declared a “War on Lead”.
Some states are already addressing the issue. In particular, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is tackling lead contamination by requiring all drinking water system owners (whether public or private) to enhance testing for lead. To support system owners and to maintain consistency across the state, NJDEP developed a template for a Lead and Copper Sampling Plan that all drinking water systems were required to fill-in and submit to NJDEP for approval before launching the new sampling protocols in 2018. These templates required system-specific information like water source, water treatment, bulk purchasers, licensed operator(s), standard and alternate sampling sites, sampling method, sampling frequency, testing methods, reporting, public education, and required notices in the event of detected lead levels exceeding drinking water standards.
One requirement is a system-wide map showing water distribution systems and sampling locations to demonstrate how the entire system is represented by the selected sampling locations. In NJ, these Lead and Copper Sampling Plans work hand-in-hand with Water Quality Parameter Sampling Plans, which address other potential contaminants based on source-specific constituents and/or site-specific treatment processes.
GPM Associates, an Advanced GeoServices company, has worked with clients, including town-based public water utilities, private water systems supporting mobile home parks, and schools, to develop Lead and Copper Sampling Plans. Part of the NJDEP process has included correcting NJDEP records regarding actual water treatment and which water sources are associated with each treatment facility.
As with any program which increases the number of samples and sampling frequency, the new sampling protocols have resulted in increased costs for clients to meet the new NJDEP requirements. GPM Associates, an Advanced GeoServices company, supports clients in exploring where testing can be performed in-house using USEPA-certified equipment, including training clients in the use of the equipment. In some instances, less than $1,000 in sampling equipment can help clients realize cost-savings in excess of $15,000.
Our experience in NJ can be leveraged in other jurisdictions to assist clients in developing the needed data to demonstrate compliance with Safe Drinking Water Standards relative to Lead, and other possible constituents of concern.
If you would like to learn more about lead sampling plans and protocols, please contact: