York Water Co.: Check your lead levels, Yorkers

Alyssa Pressler
  • York Water Co. customers are receiving pamphlets with information on lead levels in drinking water.
  • Testing in November of 2016 found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes in York.
  • The company is urging all residents to check their customer-owned service lines to be safe.

If you're a customer of The York Water Co., chances are you recently received a pamphlet from the company about lead in your drinking water.

The York Water Co. celebrated 200 years by unveiling its historical marker Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

The pamphlets are in response to government-mandated testing done in September that showed elevated levels of lead in some customers' water. Six homes out of 50 tested showed high levels of lead in tap water, resulting in mandated action by the water company.

Because of the test results, the company was required to notify all customers of the findings, provide education and replace 7 percent of company-owned service lines per year.

According to information on the water company's website, the company has already been replacing 7 percent of service lines per year. The recent testing caused the company to increase this to 25 percent of service lines per year.

Photo of the lead information pamphlet York Water Co. customers are receiving.

Though only 3 percent of customers have company-owned service lines that are made of lead, the company is required to educate all customers on lead in water in homes, which could get into the water through a lead service line, leaded solder in a property or lead in plumbing fixtures.

The pamphlets, which followed a letter sent to all customers with company-owned lead service lines in October, are part of the notification and education process.

Water company president Jeff Hines said records show almost all buildings affected are residential, so businesses and schools in the area shouldn't worry.

Hines said water that leaves the plant and travels through the pipes does not have lead in it, but the six homes that showed elevated lead levels all had company-owned lead service lines. Over the next three or four years, York Water is expected to replace those lines.

Checking for lead: The company-owned service lines are those that travel from the main service pipe to the curb. Beyond the curb are the customer-owned service lines, and Hines said it's impossible to know how many customer-owned lines have elevated levels of lead.

For this reason, Hines is encouraging all York Water customers to check their customer-owned service lines. If the customer owns a house that was built before 1935, when the York Water Co. stopped using lead for its service lines, there is a possibility the line could be made of lead.

If the pipes going into the house are silver and magnets don't stick to them, they are probably made of lead, Hines had said in past interviews. If a customer believes the pipes are made of lead, The York Water Co. will test the water for free.

"Even though a house may have a lead service line, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem," he said. "You don't know until you get (the water) tested."

If test results come back above 15 ppb, The York Water Co. will give residents credit for 200 gallons of water a month to regularly flush the line. Hines explained water that sits in lead pipes for six hours or more, such as at night, is at risk of having elevated levels. Regular flushing of the pipes will solve the problem. Running a faucet for approximately 3 minutes, taking a shower or flushing the toilet two or three times should do the trick.

Additionally, the company is hoping to offer a program to help customers in the next three or four years replace their customer-owned lines. Hines said this program is not in place yet, but more information will be made available. If a customer chooses to replace a line before this program is in place, Hines estimates it can cost $1,200 to $1,800.

Background: York Water Co. is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to test water samples every three years. In September, the company tested 50 buildings, and six had more than 15 ppb in the tap water.

York Water Co. finds some lead contamination

Hines said the houses the company tested were among the 1,660 properties that make up the 3 percent of properties York Water serves where the company-owned lines running onto the property are made of lead. These were homes that were considered "high-risk homes," Hines said in previous interviews, which is the requirement from the EPA.

Hines said his company is going to swap out 25 percent of those company-owned parts of the lines each year for the next four years, at which point the organization will have eliminated all the lead pipes it owns.

Because more than five properties tested were above 15 ppb, The York Water Co. will test its water levels every six months. Homes in the 90th percentile were at 16 ppb, according to past reporting.

The city of Flint, Michigan, brought lead in water to national attention in 2016. To put York numbers in perspective, water tested in some Flint homes had lead levels of more than 5,000 ppb, according to past reporting.