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Durham Water Failed Lead Tests

Posted January 30, 2007

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— Excessive levels of lead in Durham's water means the city failed to meet federal safety standards last year. But city officials said Tuesday that the water poses no public health risk.

State regulators last week cited Durham for failing to report the results of water tests conducted last summer.

"I think that our failure to disclose that was a lack of knowledge of the rules and not an intent to deceive the community into thinking that there were no problems with their water when in fact there were," City Manager Patrick Baker said.

Durham was supposed to provide the state with the results of all water tests conducted between June 1 and Sept. 30, but city officials turned over only the September test results, said Laura Leonard, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The tests done earlier in the summer included special samples taken while engineers adjusted the chemistry of the municipal water system and special samples requested by customers, Leonard said.

Durham tested water at older homes across the city last summer after a child at a city housing project showed signs of lead poisoning. Eighteen of 89 water samples submitted last fall showed lead contamination above federal safety guidelines, officials said at the time.

Lead is especially toxic to young children and can cause brain damage and other developmental problems.

Durham County public health officials on Monday urged people countywide who live in homes built before 1986 to have their water tested for excessive lead and copper.

Following the state citation, Durham turned over an electronic copy of another 97 water tests conducted last summer. The addition results showed the city fell out of compliance with drinking-water standards.

Baker said the city didn't meet the federal guidelines only because of the way the testing was conducted. The same homes were tested repeatedly, and although the lead levels declined each time, they remained too high, he said.

The city has agreed to have the state test its water every six months, including next month. The move is being done voluntarily.

Under state regulations, cities that fail to meet water standards are placed on a mandatory six-month water monitoring program. If the city has two consecutive rounds of tests that reach standards, it can conduct tests annually. If it meets federal standards for two years, it would then be put back on a three-year monitoring program.

Durham also must review its community education practices and its corrosive control measures.

Baker said the city has changed the chemical makeup in the water, and he insisted it's safe to drink.

"I think citizens are counting on us to do whatever it takes to make their water safe," he said.

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  • Fence Straddler Jan 31, 2007

    Durham, stop poisoning your people.
    Your water is like your image (BAD!).

  • tarheelblue919 Jan 31, 2007

    durham aint a bad city. sadly its got a bad crime rate, etc. it just needs "real" leaders that care about the community and people to step in and get things back on track.

  • thelmasgirl Jan 30, 2007

    Nifong, bad water, illegal trash burn ,sheriff deputy that ran a club for distributing drugs, no woner none of the officials can stand up against Mr. Nifong they are all the same.

  • asingwright Jan 30, 2007

    They first wanted to shut down Penrith apts for lead never checking any other location untill the complex did its own test.They are crooks and would have blamed their mistake on that company had the company not checked for themselves!! Then when it was found other homes on the same street had lead the city had no comment!! Go figure!

  • superman Jan 30, 2007

    There are crooks and dishonest politicians everywhere. It just seems like Durham has more than their fair share as of late.

  • homeimprovement Jan 30, 2007

    Im not ashamed of Durham. I love living there.

  • kaecee Jan 30, 2007

    Why should anyone be ashamed of where they live? Each city has it's good with the bad. However, let's be honest here. Had that this article not come out, what would be your other complaints with Durham? This is just another way to put Durham down again and placing another stigma on the city.

  • doinbizzness Jan 30, 2007

    Durham is one screwed up city...the cops are criminals the D.A. is a joke the school board is always in the news for something....and the list goes on and on....I would be ashamed to admit i lived there... KELVINDOTCARR@YAHOO.. God bless you i hope you are right and not just living in denial.....and i am sorry your water sucks as well.

  • homeimprovement Jan 30, 2007

    I live in Durham and I must agree that the leaders cannot get their act together. They should stop whining about the City problems, get a vision for what Durham could or should be in the near future and then go to the public with a plan, then implement it. The tobacco factory redevelopment plan is a good start!

    But that may not be the issue here. What I don't understand is how Durham leaders are asking people that own homes prior to '86 to test their water. Why not everybody? Why just Durham County? Something is missing here.

  • Forgetaboutit Jan 30, 2007

    Hey, please leave Coach K out this. Moreover, there are not enough bytes in this computer for me to log all the time that has been added or subtracted from the clock at UNC and NCST. We won, now shut up!