Energy & Environment

Water utility in northwest Harris County warns customers about potentially elevated levels of lead

Harris County MUD 70, which serves about 1,700 homes and businesses, announced that water samples taken from three homes in June had elevated levels of lead.

Water Faucet
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Water samples taken from three Houston-area homes in June had elevated levels of lead, according to Harris County MUD 70.

A Houston-area water utility that serves about 1,700 homes and businesses has warned its customers and the public about potentially elevated levels of lead in their drinking water.

Harris County Municipal Utility District (MUD) 70, which includes the Paddock, Remington Grove, Westgate and Yaupon Ranch subdivisions in the northwest part of the county, announced this week that tap water samples taken from three homes in June contained more than 0.015 milligrams of lead per one liter of water, the action level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Water from the three homes was sampled again in November, when the results were below that action level, and will be tested again in January.

John Taylor of Municipal Operations & Consulting, which operates the water system for MUD 70 and sent out a public notice on its behalf, said it has not received any reports of lead poisoning from people who consumed water from their homes or businesses. But the utility is asking its customers to take steps to reduce the possibility of lead exposure, such as installing a water filter, running faucets for up to 30 seconds before each use to flush out potential lead particles and using cold water for cooking and baby formula, since lead dissolves more easily into hot water.

Taylor also said that because 17 of the 20 homes sampled in June had water that met the EPA and TCEQ standards, it is likely the source of the lead was corroding internal fixtures or pipes inside the homes as opposed to the utility’s water supply.

“It would be rare for you not to have a low level of lead,” Taylor said. “The goal is have to zero, but we can’t control what’s inside customer’s homes.”

According to the TCEQ, the lead levels of the three elevated samples from June were 0.0325, 0.0217 and 0.0307 milligrams per liter of water. The state agency also said that during the calendar year 2021, less than half of one percent of the samples taken across Texas had lead levels above 0.015 milligrams per liter of water.

Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant woman and young children, according to the public notice sent out by MUD 70. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

“Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning can significantly increase a person’s total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water,” MUD 70 wrote in its notice. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead.”

This is the first time since testing began in 2008 that water from MUD 70 has been found to have elevated levels of lead, according to Taylor.

MUD 70 said in its notice that water in its distribution system is being analyzed for various quality parameters, and a corrosion analysis will be submitted to the TCEQ for review. A corrosion control plan also will be implemented, if necessary, to inhibit the leeching of lead from indoor plumbing and fixtures. That could entail source water treatment or replacing service lines containing lead.

In the meantime, MUD 70 is asking its customers to do the following:

  • Run water for 15-30 seconds to flush lead from interior plumbing or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking if it hasn't been used for
    several hours.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Don't use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead, since boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Consider purchasing a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead.
  • Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
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