Questions Regarding Lead in Seattle Water

Questions Regarding Lead in Seattle Water

In 2004 it was discovered that old Seattle schools had up to 1600 ppb lead in first draw water from water fountains.

Seattle has busily been replacing old pipes in the schools at great expense, and the lead readings are down.

Field sampling and laboratory studies were conducted to investigate lead release from new end-use components used in drinking water fountains in Seattle (Washington) Public Schools. Analysis of sequential small-volume samples collected at 22 sources found high lead concentrations in water that was left standing overnight. Results showed significant lead release at or near bubbler heads and at another location upstream of the bubbler head in the end-use plumbing. Laboratory testing of new end-use components were used to estimate the relative contribution of each component to the total lead release in a first-draw sample. Results of the field sampling and laboratory testing programs helped develop mitigation strategies for reducing overall exposure of Seattle’s students and staff to lead in drinking water.

Note there is no reference to the causal connection between lead leaching and silicofluoride in drinking water.
In schools that have not been fixed yet, there are do-not-drink signs over the water fountains.The District appears to be saying that the problem is gone or going away.
My response is
1) Lead readings after cleanup still exceed 20 ppb. This is not acceptable.
2) Readings would be lower if the water was not fluoridated.
3) The School District has only partially solved, at enormous expense, the problem in old schools.
4) The School District and the city are ignoring the lead problem in old apartment buildings, old houses, old factories, old office buildings. 

See this article from the AWWA Journal. The summary says:

Title: Lead Release from New End-use Plumbing Components in Seattle Public Schools Authors: Boyd, Glen R.; Pierson, Gregory L.; Kirmeyer, Gregory J.; Britton, Michael D.; English, Ronald J. Citation: Journal AWWA, Vol. 100 Iss. 3, March 2008, Page Range  105-114, 10 Pages.

The AWWA Journal posts this article:

Lead Release from New End-use Plumbing Components in Seattle Public Schools Authors: Boyd, Glen R.; Pierson, Gregory L.; Kirmeyer, Gregory J.; Britton, Michael D.; English, Ronald J. Citation: Journal AWWA, Vol. 100 Iss. 3, March 2008, Page Range  105-114, 10 Pages.

I quote from the article:

Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools (SPS), a school district of 47,000 students in 102 schools and administrative buildings, purchases water from Seattle Public Utilities. More than 60% of the school buildings are plumbed primarily with galvanized steel piping. Many buildings are more than 40 years old and moderately tuberculated. In late 2003, the district faced numerous inquiries associated with water quality in its school buildings, with much of the concern focused on exposure of school children to lead (Pb) from drinking water fountains.In 2004, a comprehensive water quality monitoring program was conducted in SPS. …
USEPA recommends that fountains be taken out of service when sampling results indicate that the lead level exceeds 20 ug/L.  [That is 20 parts per billion, an unacceptable level on an ongoing basis. There is no mention of turning off the fluoride.] …
Results of the SPS sampling indicated that 600 firstdraw samples out of 3,167 (19.0%) exceeded the USEPA guideline of 20 rg/L Pb in schools. The mean lead concentration of the first-draw samples was 21 rg/L, with a maximum observed lead concentration of 1,600 rg/L. …
The new policy included a criterion that the lead concentration at every drinking water source in all school buildings be [less than] 10 ug/L [ten parts per billion], i.e., one-half of the USEPA guideline of 20 ug/L Pb for schools. [Ten ppb is still too much lead for children to be drinking.] …
Several possible sources of lead were identified in the school piping systems, including old galvanized-steel pipe, lead/tin solder, and brass components such as bubbler heads, valves, elbows, ferrules, and flexible connectors. …
Mitigation included one or more of the following options: totally or partially replacing building piping; replacing bubbler heads with low-lead « 0.3 % Pb) brass bubblers; installing new end-use plastic-lined flexible connectors, valves, and fittings; disabling the fountain if other accessible fountains were nearby; installing granular-media point-of-use (POU) filters for lead removal from incoming water (Boyd et aI, 2005); and/or providing bottled water. After implementation of the water quality monitoring program, followup sampling results indicated that some of the remediated sources exhibited lead concentrations that exceeded the school board’s criterion of 10 rg/L Pb.
So even after doing remediation, lead levels were still exceeding 10 ppb. The entire article makes not one mention of the ability of silicofluoride to dissolve lead. Every article written about the lead problem in Seattle schools has omitted any mention of this connection.


Mike C said:
Changing lead service lines to plastic service lines is a half-baked solution if the water is treated with fluosilicic acid. The 8% LEADED BRASS FAUCETS will still release lead into the water being delivered at the bubler.

Why is it so hard to convince every one that ingesting fluorosilic acid is the real problem with fluoridated water?

(1) The CDC and EPA have lied about this problem for 65 years.

(2) The most vocal anti-fluoridationists have aided and abetted by intoning the mantra “Fluoride is fluoride, is fluoride.”

Gerry C from Toronto says:

The Maas, Coplan et al study (2007) may be relevant to your questions, James.
It shows that chloramine also causes lead leaching to occur and accounts for about 25% of the total amount. Also, bear in mind that there are other sources of lead than the city water pipes, including the water meters and the faucets. The brass in these units contains varying amounts of embedded lead used as a flux in from the manufacturing processes and sodder joints. So the key thing here is the amount of lead at the user’s outlet tap (be it in the school water fountains, the residential outlets, etc) rather than any earlier point in the service distribution system. Also it is significant to the test results obtained whether the samples are drawn after an extended lull period (e.g., overnight, weekend) rather than after flushing the system for a prolonged period (say 5 minutes).
The water people here call for flushing before sampling in their protocol whereas the public health people advise no prior flushing be done as that best approximates the real world situation of how we consumers use drinking water. I used the latter approach when I tested our place for lead content. The before reading was 35 ppb of lead, and the after reading was 6 ppb of lead. “After” was after I and the City had the distribution and service pipes replaced. But there still is chlorine and ammonia in the drinking water and neither the faucets nor the water meter were replaced.
BTW, the F-Pb connection also figures greatly on both adverse health and water costs aspects in our case to end fluoridation here in Toronto.  We go before the City’s Executive Committee on Sep 19 to seek their adoption of our recommendation to cease fluoridation.
Mike C said:

Changing lead service lines to plastic service lines is a half-baked solution if the water is treated with fluosilicic acid. The 8% LEADED BRASS FAUCETS will still release lead into the water being delivered at the bubler.

Why is it so hard to convince every one that ingesting fluorosilic acid is the real problem with fluoridated water?

(1) The CDC and EPA have lied about this problem for 65 years.

(2) The most vocal anti-fluoridationists have aided and abetted by intoning the mantra “Fluoride is fluoride, is fluoride.”

Aliss T offered this:

Peter Van Caulart may have more in depth info but from what we learned here in Toronto, estimate is that fluoridation is responsible for 75% of the lead measured in the tap water. Source water from lake Ontario is neutral to 7.2 pH with around 100 to 120 [ppm] total dissolved solids, good calcium balance, has zero ppb lead. Finished water leaving the treatment plant after sand filter,  flocculation with alum, treatment to lower sulfur and phosphates, carbon filter, then chloramine and ammonia, acids or hydroxides for buffering, then fluoridation and further buffering if needed, has non-detectable lead or below 1 ppb.

Our provincially enforced drinking water regulations permit up to 10 ppb lead at the tap AFTER 5 minutes of cold water flushing. God only knows what the lead content would be BEFORE flushing huh. Ten percent of tests exceed the 10 ppb regulation overall and in the urban older neighbourhoods where lead supply pipes dominate the lead is higher on average at the tap, and the percentage of tests that fail the regulatory limit is closer to 40%. [It is estimated that] 70,000 urban households affected. [There is] no data on lead in water in schools, and the province was petitioned to remove the onerous requirement for testing the water at schools built after 1968 when lead pipes were no longer allowed, but caretaking duties ordered by Toronto District School Board now include flushing all drinking fountains for a full ten minutes each morning mon-fri Sept-July at all schools regardless of when they were built. As we know, the brass fittings will leach plenty of lead regardless.

My guess regarding Seattle is that due to the lack of calcium in the source water the fluoridation with HFSA (and I think you should specify this to differentiate it from NaF effect which leaches less lead) is responsible for 90% or more of the lead measured at the tap. Chloramine and chlorine disinfection alone leach a tiny amount. Water would likely meet regs for lead almost every test if fluoridation was ended. In every city where fluoridation with HFSA was interrupted for any length of time the measured lead content at the tap has fallen drastically. Didn’t they end fluoridation permanently in one major city [she is referring to Tacoma] as a result of finding this out but the other city put the fluoridation back on because hey, lead poisoning of kids is justified by reduced tooth decay.
The EPA has simply abdicated its responsibility for protecting citizens from lead in tap water. It’s like there is this unwritten exception clause that everyone in government obeys but never mentions. Lead over 10 (or is it 15) ppb is illegal “except when caused by fluoridation”. Gee maybe they should put lead back in gasoline because lead protects us against radiation.
Professor Richard Sauerheber, PhD, offered this:

Fluoridation with industrial fluorides lacking calcium obviously always decreases the ratio of calcium+magnesium to fluoride in the treated water.  In the Hereford Texas prototype natural water the ratio was 324 to 2 or 162 to 1. These people had increased tooth fluorosis from the natural fluoride and fewer surface cavities [due to] the naturally high calcium level.

In Seattle the naturally prevalent ratio is about 15 ppm calcium to about 0.02 ppm fluoride [if we did not fluoridate] for a minimum safe ratio of 375-750 or higher. By adding fluoride at 1 ppm, the ratio was lowered drastically to 15 to 1. Even using calcium fluoride does not help this ratio much, where it would still be about 16 to 1, but again using calcium fluoride would eliminate the need to add [a half ton of caustic soda for every ton of silicofluoride], and the material [using NaF instead of silicofluoride] would not have the significant amounts of arsenic, lead, uranium, etc. that plague the fluosilicic acid hazardous waste. Also it would not form silicic acid or as much hydrofluoric acid in the water which is also responsible for dissolving lead.

The reaction that dissolves lead solid is:      Pb + HF  goes to Pb2+ + F- + H2 ga

Dr. Sauerheber also offered this:
Any acid, depending on concentration, can react with lead to ionize and dissolve it, but at normal or alkaline pH the effect is gone. HF though is thought to be different since it is so tiny it can burrow into metals and glass to dissolve it even though HF is a weak acid. [When silicofluorides dissolve they produce HF. When sodium fluoride dissolves, it does not produce HF.] It is a weak acid because it is not able to ionize like strong acids do. Stong acids like sulfuric in car batteries dissolve lead, but this acid would not exist in water that is alkaline before it arrives at the lead pipe. Appreciable HF exists even at somewhat alkaline pH because it is a ‘weak acid’ that does not ionize easily, and presumably because it is tiny it uniquely can penetrate metal, glass, leather, concrete, etc.
Golda S said:

In Wikipedia under Lead and Copper Rule:

are some really interesting points.  For example:

“Partially because of lead pipes, some states regulated the corrosivity of water put into the distribution system.”

Does anyone know if the state of WA regulates the corrosivity of water?

Under the sub title Unusual features of the rule is the following statement:

“Especially for the larger systems, having the water supplier change the tendency of the water to dissolve lead in the customer plumbing may be more cost effective than having thousands of customers replace plumbing.”

Then on the EPA website at:

Regulations to reduce human exposure to lead are:

The Lead and Copper Rule of 1991 – This rule requires lead and copper levels to be minimized in drinking water, primarily by reducing water corrosivity. It establishes an action level of 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for lead and 1.3 mg/L for copper in 90 percent of the first-draw water samples taken at specifically identified sites and after six hours of stagnation. (Refer to the Lead and Copper Rule targeting and sampling requirements.) The action level is the lowest level to which water utilities can reasonably be required to control lead if it occurs in drinking water at their customers’ home taps. (Note: An action level exceedance is not a violation but can trigger other requirements such as monitoring and treatment.)

To me that means eliminating fluoride from the water in order to reduce the corrosion of lead into the water from home and school pipes.


I have posted these questions to experts, and I will post their answers:
If no fluoride were added, even if the water were sitting in pipes made of 8% or 30% lead, how low would our fluoride level be?  This is snow melt water, so there is probably little calcium to bind with the lead and coat the inside of the pipes.
If there were no fluoride in the pipes, how much would of the the lead in the pipes, fittings, and solder still be leached out by chlorine?
Even if a city does not fluoridate, should it add calcium in some form to seal in the lead?
If we were not fluoridating, would there be no reason to replace old pipes throughout the city at huge cost?

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