Denver Water is starting to replace lead pipes, but the process could take 15 years

DENVER (KDVR) – Kyle Rudolph of South Grant Street and his son Tam have a daily routine.

“We always fill up water bottles, bring them upstairs and something like that,” said Rudolph, who learned a few years ago that the water in his house has a high lead content due to lead installations.

“We have to filter the water our son uses to brush his teeth and rinse his mouth at the end of the brushing,” said Rudolph.

“It takes a while,” added Tam, a 5-year-old who was sitting at the sink, filling bottles through a filter on the faucet.

The family moved to their older home in Washington Park West after the birth of their son. It was built decades before lead water pipes were banned in the United States.

“However, we were pretty concerned about our son and thought about what is really safe,” said Rudolph.

Denver Water said homes in Denver built prior to 1951 are more likely to have lead supplies, and while the utility sends lead-free water to households, “customer-owned lead supplies – the pipe – are the primary source of lead in drinking water that brings Water from the water from the aqueduct on the street to the sanitary facilities in the house. “

Denver Water estimates that up to 84,000 homes in the Denver area could have a problem.

In 2012, Denver Water saw an increase in lead levels in customers’ water when it tested dozen of households above the federal health level of 15 parts per billion. According to Denver Water, 13% of the water samples in 2012 contained lead, and one house showed levels of up to 57 parts per billion.

“The lead pipe was between the main and water meters,” said Rudolph of the problem in his own house. “We got a few offers to have it replaced and they were really, really expensive,” said Rudolph, who regularly uses a filter to boil and drink water.

Denver Water received approval to start a lead reduction program in December 2019 in which the organization would replace customers’ lead service lines with copper lines at no charge. The project started in the spring and in August Denver Water replaced the service lines at Rudolph.

“Lead is quite toxic, especially in young children,” said Dr. Reginald Washington, chief physician, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. “Children, children and babies can also absorb this lead when they ingest the water. Hence, if you ingest too much of it, it becomes a problem. In fact, all of the lead in your bloodstream is too much – even very low levels can affect brain development. ”

Washington warned the only way to treat lead is to avoid it.

“Unfortunately, these effects are not reversible. We believe the only real way to treat this is to prevent it from happening,” he said.

FOX31 problem solver Lori Jane Gliha asked Travis Thompson, a spokeswoman for Denver Water, “What happened between 2012 and 2020? Because that was a long time ago. “

Thompson stated that Denver Water is taking an aggressive approach to researching ways to reduce corrosion in its water supply while developing a holistic program to address the biggest source of the problem: the leading service lines.

“Lead reduction is a holistic program that is helping the community with this problem,” he said.

Thompson said it also took time to find customer lead service lines.

“Identifying and finding out where the lines are was a challenge for us. We didn’t install or maintain it either, ”Thompson said.

In March, the utility increased the pH in the water to reduce corrosiveness.

“We also raised our pH to add extra coating to the pipes in your home,” Thompson said.

The utility’s pH range is currently between 8.5 and 9.2 with a target of 8.8. The water supplied to customers has had a pH range between 7.5 and 8.5 for years with a goal of 7.8.

Denver Water’s Lead Reduction program includes a map that lists the locations that have confirmed lines and addresses that are likely to have service lines.

The utility is holding virtual community meetings and sending replacement filters for the 100,000 free water jugs it sent home earlier this year.

Denver Water said it is replacing 1,300 lines a year, but it could be 15 years before all old service lines are replaced.

“We don’t know when we will get to each person. We’re working on a prioritization model, ”Thompson said.

This model includes neighborhoods with children, according to Denver Water.

However, Washington said families with children suspected of having lead pipes should use filters. Families can also change their pipes themselves.

“If you are in an older home and you think or know that your pipes have lead in your home, I would speed up that effort as it will expose your children to the lead,” Washington said.

The districts of Congress Park, Baker and Cole will also replace the pipes this year.

Denver Water offers free water tests if you want to learn more about the water you drink. Thousands of Denver residents have had their homes checked for lead by the utility company. These results can be viewed here.

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