Viroqua Water System and Lead
The US Environmental Protection Agency describes lead as a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. Throughout the early part of the 20th century, lead pipes were used to connect buildings to watermains under the street surface. Although many efforts have been made to replace lead water services for the sake of public health, lead can still be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water may come from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water.
Lead can be toxic to humans and animals. Because of this, the EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero. Current Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) regulations have set an action level at the 90th-percentile of the samples being over 15 parts per billion.
Over the past decades, the City of Viroqua has replaced many lead components in the water system. As a result, possible exposure to lead in the water supply has been reduced. Sampling in Viroqua’s water system in 2019 resulted in a 90th-percentile at 1.45 parts per billion, below the action level of 15 parts per billion. The City is aware of lead goosenecks (2 foot section of pipe) connected to galvanized water services still in the system and is working toward their removal. Information is currently being gathering on the number of galvanized lines connected to lead goosenecks in the system.
Many lead goosenecks were located in the current construction zone of South Rusk and Washington Avenue, and have been replaced. This will have an impact on the next sampling of Viroqua’s water system once this project is complete. Even without the lead pipe replacements, the City of Viroqua has clean water that is safe to drink meeting all state and federal standards, and does not have any fluoride added.
Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. Fortunately, the City of Viroqua water has high mineral content and a pH above 7 (not acidic) which minimizes the amount of corrosion that can occur.
The City of Viroqua has been awarded $200,000 from the WDNR to provide grants to homeowners to replace galvanized water services connected to lead goosenecks. A survey has been sent to 344 residence requesting information on water service material. This information about water service material will be used to determine how many homeowners qualify for the grant. We will also use this information to help determine which homes need water service line replacements.