Residents Discover Presence of Lead in Their Well Water

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Provided by Prince William County

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Recently, a number of residents on Possum Point Road discovered varying lead levels in their water after having their wells tested by different entities. The recent news of Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to close their coal ash ponds at their Possum Point Facility has raised concern of whether the lead might be the result of the coal ash leaching lead into the ground water.

“The Board of County Supervisors has expressed its concern with potential health impacts from Dominion Power’s coal ash ponds,” said Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors. “In March, Dominion agreed to terms with the Board to provide enhanced protection for Quantico Creek and the Potomac River as they work to close down the coal ash ponds, and we will continue to monitor the situation to make certain our residents and the environment are protected.”

The question of whether the coal ash ponds could have contributed to the lead detected in property owners’ wells remains uncertain. So, the Board voted to pay for testing of the two wells at Possum Point to try and determine whether the lead may be coming from the plumbing of the homes or from the wells directly, and if so what necessary steps the well owners can implement to prevent lead in their water.

Lead can have harmful health effects. Nationally, there have been a number of reports of the dangers of lead in drinking water. Prince William County’s public drinking water is tested and treated regularly for a number of potential contaminants, including lead. However, homeowners on well systems for their drinking water must take the responsibility to test their wells annually to make certain it is free of harmful levels of bacteria and other contaminants.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offers confidential well water analysis for $55 through the Virginia Household Water Quality Program. The class is offered locally in Prince William on an annual basis. Each kit provides containers and detailed instructions on how to collect water for testing, and the fee covers the cost for lab testing of the water. The process takes about 28 days and homeowners are provided a complete report of their water quality along with information of recommended actions if contaminants are found.

Lead can enter the drinking water in a number of ways. Most commonly, lead in tap water comes from lead solder, which was allowed for use in homes up until 1986, or from so-called “lead-free” brass fittings and fixtures, which could contain up to eight percent lead until 2014. This is particularly common with water that has low pH levels (acidic water), which can be corrosive to the plumbing system. It is also possible to have lead in the groundwater itself. Treatment devices that may help with lead include an acid neutralizing filter, which increases the pH of water, or activated carbon or reverse osmosis, which work to filter lead out of drinking water prior to consumption.

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