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Summerlin’s ‘young water system’ makes contaminants unlikely

If you live in Summerlin or surrounding areas, it should be of comfort to know that the water you drink is clear of even the remotest threat of lead and any other contaminants. And that’s irrespective of whatever some final determination might be about whether there was lead in the water of the old school house in the little town of Goodsprings, southwest of Las Vegas.

No question about it, lead in drinking water is dangerous and scary stuff. Of course, that doesn’t even begin to take into account the myriad of serious problems in Flint, Mich. — a city with a population of more than 100,000 — where the whole ruckus about lead in drinking water first surfaced last year. As a result, there are cities and towns across America that are now desperately scrutinizing their plumbing systems to determine if lead is leaching into their potable water.

Goodsprings — with a population of 229, according to the 2010 census — is an unincorporated old mining town in Clark County. There was concern last winter about lead in the water of the town’s only school, built 103 years ago, and its community center. But tests have since shown it might have been a false alarm. Still, most, if not all, of Goodsprings’ structures were built well before passage of vital amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1986.

In particular, those revisions to the SDWA — a law that was enacted 12 years earlier — established more rigorous regulations governing the restriction of lead in plumbing systems, with particular emphasis on the use of solder.

So that brings us back to Summerlin and its environs, which for the most part were still a barren desert 30 years ago, when the SDWA code to protect against lead in water was toughened. “Construction everywhere has had to conform to the new plumbing code since 1986, to assure against lead contamination,” said Corey Enus, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Keep in mind that most of the area the water authority serves has “a young water system,” Enus emphasized, and that includes practically all of Summerlin.

It also brings us to a reassuring mailing piece that accompanied a recent homeowner water bill from the water authority: “You can drink your tap water with confidence. Southern Nevada’s drinking water meets or surpasses all state and federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards,” the mailer stated.

The key ingredient in those 1986 amendments to the federal act, which is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, says that lead concentrations must not exceed 15 parts per billion. In response to this, Enus said, “We’re a whole lot better than that. Our water has less than one part per billion, and that covers all of our customer areas, including Summerlin. One of the benefits is that there are no lead service lines anywhere in our water distribution system.”

Enus added that “all of SNWA’s indoor and public water systems use lead-free components.”

The water authority’s recent mailing piece explained that “inhibiting the corrosion process also helps extend the life of underground pipes, valves and other critical water delivery infrastructure. In addition, the SNWA uses advanced water-treatment processes and has a team of experts to monitor water quality. Our scientists conduct more than 333,700 analyses on more than 33,476 water samples collected throughout the valley each year.”

Enus noted that the EPA further tightened the safe drinking water code in 1991: “The amendment is called the ‘lead and copper rule,’ and it strictly regulates control of both lead and copper in drinking water,” he said.

Ironically, Michigan, which has taken much heat in Congress and across the country because of the lead-in-water dangers in Flint, may be on the verge of having the toughest regulations in the nation. According to reports, Michigan would mandate that lead concentrations in drinking water could not exceed 10 parts per billion, in line with a standard established by the World Health Organization.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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