Lead Levels In New Orleans' Drinking Water Raises Concerns

Concerns over the amount of lead in New Orleans drinking water have been raised, and they reportedly existed before the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

A great deal of the infrastructure in New Orleans uses lead pipes that were installed in the early 1900s to deliver water, CBS News reports.

"You can't count on basic infrastructure like water being safe." New Orleans resident Rachael DePauw told CBS News. "I mean what, it's just scary."

In 2014, tests run on Depauw’s daughter showed she had three times the level of lead in her blood that is recommended by the CDC.

Water tests performed in DePauw’s home confirmed the presence of lead: 8.5 parts per billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers anything below 15 parts per billion to be safe.

However, at least one scientist questions whether the EPA’s figure is correct.

“There is no safe level of lead,” scientist Adrienne Katner from Louisiana State University said. “The evidence is mounting that there are neurocognitive impacts on a child, behavioral impacts.”

In 2014, the city tested its 137,000 water customers for lead. The state requires only 53 homes be tested, and just one site was found to be unsafe.

Katner has performed independent testing of 151 sites and found 12 with unsafe levels of lead.

“We are doing everything we can with one of the most-extensive water quality labs in the South,” Cedric Grant, executive director of the city’s water board, told CBS News.

Grant said the water is lead-free when it leaves the plants but that homeowners are responsible for what happens when it travels through lead pipes to reach them.

“I am not responsible for what goes from the meter to them," he added. “I'm ready to assist, I'm ready to provide information. It’s a customer responsibility at that point.”

The EPA suggests homeowners take the following actions to reduce lead in drinking water: For any tap that has not been used for six hours or longer, “flush it” by running the water until it gets as cold as possible (up to 2 minutes); only consume cold water, as “hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead;" and lastly, have your water tested for lead.

Sources: CBS News, EPA / Photo Source: Steve Johnson/Flickr (2)

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