A closer look at Meigs’ water supply

By Michael Hart - Special to Times-Sentinel

MEIGS COUNTY — The results of recent lead mapping by Meigs water providers are now available to the public.

March 9 was the deadline for all Ohio water systems to submit maps detailing known lead service lines, sampling sites, and likely sources of lead contaminants, as outlined in state legislation passed in 2016.

The mapping process required system wide testing for lead, and representatives for each Meigs water system said their results confirmed no risk to consumers.

House Bill 512, enacted in June 2016, mandated all water providers in Ohio conduct detailed sampling for lead contamination and submit maps to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA).

According to Donald Poole, general manager of Tuppers Plains/Chester Water District, lead typically enters the water supply through lead service lines or lead soldering used on copper pipes.

Lead service lines will only contaminate water if damaged or improperly maintained, but lead soldering is much more fragile and much of that soldering is on the customer’s side of the system.

The older the house, the greater likelihood of having lead issues, said Poole.

Since the mid 80’s, Ohio laws have gradually reduced the acceptable lead content in construction.

Information regarding customer side risk was included with the submitted maps.

Several Meigs water operators interviewed said any significant contamination reaching the greater water supply would be detected in tri-annual testing already mandated by the EPA.

Several operators opined the most recent legislation was done in good spirit, but primarily aimed at districts “not doing their job.”

They applauded updated requirements for notifying at-risk customers following sampling, and the requirement to specify sampling sites.

Lead mapping – operator response:

Again, representatives for each Meigs water system said their results confirmed no risk to consumers.

Several water systems are entirely lead free on the service side, but others still rely on lead lines or lines of an unknown composition.

All the water operators interviewed maintained that with proper testing, remaining lead service lines and soldering were not a risk to the general water supply, though residents of individual houses with older “fixtures” could be at risk.

Racine Operator of Record John Holman provided a summary in Racine’s narrative: “Because it is practically impossible to determine the lead content of an installed fixture, fitting, or pipe, it should be assumed that the manufacture or installation date is the primary indicator of the lead content.

Therefore, the characteristics of buildings and piping solder or fixtures would be buildings in Ohio built prior to 1998 or that use plumbing material or solder manufactured before 1998…”

Holman said Racine Village’s water system is in very good shape, with all distribution lines converted to polyethylene (a plastic used extensively in modern piping) in two phases, in 2010 and 2016.

Holman is also responsible for Syracuse Village’s system, but said incomplete records indicate service lines are probably lead. However, testing during the mapping process revealed no issues, and Syracuse’s next sampling is scheduled for 2018.

Beyond digging up the water system, there is no reliable way to determine the materials used in a line’s construction.

“If you could see underground, we’d all be rich,” Holman said.

Middleport and Pomeroy water systems are both operated by Joe Woodall, who confirmed lead service lines were present in the historic villages, but has a policy to replace any lead lines or fixtures discovered.

“When we find it, it gets removed. If it’s exposed, it gets removed,” he said. The recent sampling also revealed no significant contamination, per Woodall.

Elbert Williams serves as the operator for Leading Creek and Rutland Village, and said neither system had any lead lines, though Leading Creek’s system had better documentation stemming from occasions where lines were replaced or repaired.

Poole, of the Tuppers Plains/Chester Water District, runs Meigs’s largest water system and said the district never utilized lead lines and has never encountered any during maintenance.

“As far as our system, we have zero lead lines,” in their 600 miles of piping, he said.

The district is in the midst of an extensive mapping and digitizing project, part of which includes identifying at-risk areas and residences for contamination residential side fixtures.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) stated it received maps from all 1851 water systems on Ohio, including the seven systems in Meigs County. The homepage for EPA mapping is http://epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/pws/leadandcopper/map.aspx. All Ohio water system submissions are available at http://epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/pws/leadandcopper/map.aspx.


By Michael Hart

Special to Times-Sentinel

Michael Hart is a freelance writer for the Sunday Times-Sentinel.

Michael Hart is a freelance writer for the Sunday Times-Sentinel.