The Division of Public Health announced the Lewes Board of Public Works recently issued a drinking water notice to customers after tests showed elevated levels of lead in the water.

DPH received notification late last week from BPW that drinking water samples collected in August showed an exceedance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Action Level for lead. Lab analysis found that the 90th percentile result of 26.5 ug/L exceeded the EPA Action Level of 15 ug/L. Sampling comprised 10 samples collected in different parts of the BPW service area with results ranging from non-detect to 38.4 ug/L.

DPH is working with the Lewes BPW to conduct additional sampling and gather information to help define the scope and cause of the issue. Both agencies believe the presence of lead is likely associated with lead service pipes serving individual homes and buildings, or with plumbing components within them that contain lead. The Lewes BPW is working to identify the impacted areas, but the differences in housing age, construction materials and other factors will make it difficult to identify all the impacted structures.

Residents who are concerned that their plumbing may contain lead should have their water tested, as testing is the only way to know definitively if lead is present. The required test kits are available at private laboratories; homeowners should ensure testing takes place through an EPA-drinking-water-certified laboratory. To find one, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visit epa.gov/safewater/labs.

In addition to posting the public notice on its website, BPW is mailing the notice to customers’ homes and working with Lewes to email the information to residents as well. BPW will also test water in schools prior to opening next week, as well as Beebe Healthcare and a long-term care facility served by the utility’s system. Posting of public notices after a lead level exceedance is required by state law. DPH is working with BPW to resolve the issue and will conduct more frequent monitoring of the water system.

To reduce potential exposure to lead, DPH advises customers who are concerned they may have lead in their plumbing to run the water for 30 seconds to flush lead from plumbing prior to using the water; use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula, as hot water in contact with the pipes can leach more lead, so using cold water can reduce exposures; consider bottled water as an alternative source, though there are filters available for home use that will remove lead — NSF International maintains a list of filter products certified to remove lead; and do not boil water because boiling water does not remove lead.

Bathing and showering should be safe, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.

Exposure to high levels of lead in tap water can cause health effects, impacting the kidneys, nervous system and other body systems. Lead can also impact the intellectual and physical development of children. There are often no outward signs of lead exposure, but a simple blood test can determine a child’s blood lead level.

For more, visit cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm.