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January 9, 2014

Is your water corrosive? Pryor faces federal testing mandate

PRYOR, OK — Pryor Municipal Utility Board met Monday to discuss Environmental Protec-tion Agency regulations working their way down the pipes.

Steve Powell,  an  engineer with Mehlburger Brawley Engineering, discussed the testing with the board.

“Pryor does not have contaminated water, first and foremost,” said Powell. “These new regulations will require testing for lead and copper every six months.”

According to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the test determines the level of copper and lead in water, thereby determining how corrosive the water is.

“Corrosive water can pull lead and copper from plumbing materials into drinking water. Public water suppliers are required to provide non-corrosive water to their consumers,” according to the ODEQ website.

“The EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule,” the site continues.

The rule, according to the site, requires community and Non-Transient Non-Community (NTNC) systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps.

“The test requires water samples from 40 homes every six months,” said Powell “The problem is the water has to come from inside individual homes, which takes a lot of coordination.”

Powell said the water samples must come from different areas of Pryor, from houses of different ages and from different types of pipes. However, the home can’t be more than 40 years old, the owner can’t have made certain modifications to the plumbing and can’t use water softeners, Powell said.

“The samples also have to come from an inside faucet, preferably the kitchen, that has not been turned on in six hours,” Powell continued.

“We are highly dependent on homeowners in this process. There are a lot of variables we have no control over,” said MUB General Manager Gary Pruett.

“One hundred thirty-two water districts have had 169 violations since 2003. We’re not talking levels of copper or lead that cause major catastrophes like cattle dying or babies being born with two heads,” said Powell. “The limit is set so low that failing the test is very common.”

If lead concentration in the water tested exceeds 15 parts per billion, or the copper concentration exceeds a level of 1.3 parts per million in more than 10 percent of customer taps,  the the water supply is considered failing.

Powell said that failing the test, meaning the levels of copper and lead in the water samples were too high, means MUB would have to enter into a Corrosion Control Study.

“MUB will have to pay for each test, and these are not cheap tests,” said Powell. “This is a federal level requirement, so you guys are not the only ones hit with this testing.”

Water rates have increased three times in recent years, Pruett said, and the cost increase has been absorbed by MUB rather than being passed on to customers.

“We’ve had three increases that MUB has absorbed, roughly 15 cents per 1,000 gallons,” said Pruett. “With the increase in work, our crews having to sideline their regular work to conduct these tests every six months, then having to pay a lab to do the testing, we may have to re-evaluate the water rate at this point.”

MUB currently performs several additional tests on water on a regularly scheduled basis.

 

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