ANNUAL REPORT ON YOUR DRINKING WATER: 2003, TEXT-ONLY VERSION
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THIS REPORT IS REQUIRED UNDER THE FEDERAL SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT PUBLIC LAW 104-12, SECTION 1414(C)(4) PWS ID #6000000
A letter from the Executive Director
Once again, I am pleased to send you this annual report on your drinking water quality. The report describes how we treat, test, and deliver tap water to your home. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and your local water department test up to 500 samples each week, and for over 120 contaminants each year. This report includes the results of those tests for 2003.
The results show that the source water is excellent, and in 2003 MWRA met every standard except for lead. Lead is not in the source water but can enter through some household plumbing, and therefore some homes may have higher lead levels. Lead can pose a significant health risk. Please read pages 5, 6, and the insert for more information on lead in tap water and to learn what MWRA has been doing to reduce lead. If you are worried about lead in your tap water, let the water run until after it's cold before using -this will help flush any possible lead out.
After a decade of planning, design, and construction, the new water tunnel and the major covered storage facilities are complete. For the first time in the history of our region's great water system, there are no open distribution reservoirs in service within the metropolitan area. Once the water leaves the Wachusett Reservoir, it does not see the light of day until it comes out of the tap in your home. And when the new treatment plant is completed early next year, water quality will be even better. I hope you will take a few moments to read this important report on your water. MWRA has great confidence in the water we deliver to over 2 million customers and we hope that this report will give you the same confidence. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about your water quality, or any of MWRA's programs.
MASSACHUSETTS WATER RESOURCES AUTHORITY
WHAT'S INSIDE (click links to jump to each section)
WHERE DOES YOUR WATER COME FROM?
The MWRA supplies wholesale water to local water departments in 40 cities and towns of greater Boston and MetroWest and three in Western Massachusetts. This water comes from Quabbin Reservoir, about 65 miles west of Boston, and Wachusett Reservoir, about 35 miles west of Boston. The reservoirs combined provide about 250 million gallons of high quality water to consumers each day.
Rain and snow falling on the watersheds - protected land around the reservoirs - turn into streams that flow to the reservoirs. This water comes in contact with soil, rock, plants, and other material as it follows nature's path to the reservoirs. While this process helps clean the water, it can also dissolve and carry very small amounts of material into the reservoir. Minerals from soil and rock, including low levels of natural radioactive materials, do not usually cause problems in the water. But water can also transport contaminants from human and animal activity. These can include bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and fertilizers - some of which can cause illness. The test data in this report show that these are not a problem in your reservoirs' watersheds.
Quabbin and Wachusett watersheds are protected naturally, as over 85% of the watersheds are covered in forest and wetlands. About 75% of the total watershed land cannot be built on. The natural undeveloped watersheds help to keep MWRA water clean and clear. Also to ensure safety, the streams and the reservoirs are tested often and patrolled daily by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS UNDERWAY
MWRA's Integrated Water Supply Improvement Program is a 10-year, $1.7 billion series of projects designed to improve system reliability and security with new water treatment and transmission facilities. The major components are:
FROM RESERVOIR TO YOUR HOME
Your water is tested each step of the way - from the reservoir to the tap to ensure that the water you receive is top-quality.
TESTS IN COMMUNITY PIPES
MWRA and local water departments work together to test water all the way to the tap. We test 300 to 500 samples of water in the city and town systems each week for total coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria can come from the intestines of warmblooded animals, and they also can be found in soil, on plants, and other places. Most of the time, these bacteria are not harmful to humans. However, their presence could signal that harmful bacteria from fecal waste may be there as well. The EPA requires that no more than 5% of the samples in a given month may be positive for total coliform. If a water sample tests positive for total coliform, we run more specific tests for E.coli. E.coli is a pathogen found in human and animal fecal waste that can cause illness.
HOW DID WE DO IN 2003?
The table reports test results from 30 communities that receive all of their water from MWRA. Total coliform were only found in 3 communities. *Only one of these communities exceeded the EPA standard. In 15 follow-up tests, no E.coli was found. (Quincy residents should read their community letter on page 7.)
NEW EPA REGULATIONS
MWRA has been working with EPA and other researchers to define new national drinking water rules by testing for compounds which are not regulated. Our results will be used with those of other water suppliers to help EPA set regulations for these compounds if they are necessary. MWRA is also participating with Tufts University on a nationally-funded study testing for Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON RADON
Radon is a radioactive gas that is found in soil and tap water throughout the United States. Compared to radon entering the home through soil, radon entering the home through tap water is a very small source of radon in indoor air. For additional information, call 1-800- RADON95 or call EPA's Radon Hotline, 1-800-SOS-RADON.
Facts About Sodium
Sodium in water contributes only a small fraction of a person's overall intake (less than 10%). MWRA tests for sodium monthly and the highest level found was 33.9 mg/L (about 7 mg per glass).
LEAD IN TAP WATER
What is being done to reduce lead in tap water? MWRA has been taking steps to make its water less corrosive, thereby reducing the leaching of lead into drinking water. In 1996, MWRA began operating a new facility in Marlborough where sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide are added to adjust the water's pH and buffering capacity. This change has made the water less likely to leach lead from the pipes. Lead levels found in sample tests of tap water have dropped significantly since this treatment change. Also, local water departments are working to decrease lead corrosion by replacing existing lead service lines.
Each year, all MWRA communities must test tap water in a sample of homes that are likely to have high lead levels. These are usually homes with lead service lines or lead solder. Under the Lead and Copper Rule, if more than 10% of tap water samples exceed the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), water systems must take additional steps, including changes to treatment. Since 1996, lead levels have declined dramatically, finally getting below the Action Level in 2002. However, lead levels exceeded the Action Level in 2003. Note that not enough samples were collected. (See page 6 and the insert for more information.) A round of testing with the correct number of samples was conducted in March 2004. Preliminary results of this testing indicate that the MWRA system will be below the lead action level.
Important Information from EPA about Lead
Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. It is possible that lead levels in your home may be higher than at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your home's plumbing. Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. If you are concerned about elevated lead levels in your home's water, you may wish to have your water tested and flush your tap until after it is cold before using tap water.
Monitoring Requirements Not Met for Lead and Copper
During a review of MWRA's lead and copper sampling program, DEP determined that MWRA communities did not always collect the required number of samples between 1992 and 2003. Based on DEP regulations, MWRA communities were required to sample a total of 440 samples in 2003. However, only 425 samples were collected. The correct number of samples was collected in March 2004. (For more information on lead and its health effects, see page 5 and the insert.)
Contaminants in Bottled Water and Tap Water
Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791) or your local water supplier. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, Massachusetts DEP and EPA prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health.
What Should I Do about Lead in Tap Water?
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM EPA AND DEP
Drinking Water and People with Weakened Immune Systems
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. EPA/CDC guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).
Wasting water can add up quickly. On average, a family of four uses 90,000 gallons of water each year: each person uses about 60 gallons of water each day. Consumers are discovering that more efficient water use can reduce the impact on the water supply and their wallets. Here are some ways to make your home and your habits more water efficient.
Outdoor Water Savings Tips
Summer is an especially important time to save water. Water consumption can increase up to 50% in the summer months due to outdoor water use.
Tips to Save Water Outdoors
The Inch Rule
Most lawns, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers need just one inch of water per week. If there has been an inch of rainfall during the week, you don't need to water at all. Overwatering can actually weaken your lawn by encouraging shallow roots that are less tolerant of dry periods and more likely to be damaged by insects.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS. Your comments on all of our reports help us improve them. We have continued to keep costs down on this report. Each copy costs only 31 cents to print and mail. Give us a call, send a letter or e-mail, and let us know what you think.
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Charlestown Navy Yard, 100 First Avenue, Boston, MA 02129
A LARGE PRINT VERSION OF THIS REPORT IS AVAILABLE. PLEASE CALL US AT 617-242-5323 FOR A COPY
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DRINKING WATER
This notice is intended for homes and businesses in communities in metropolitan Boston and MetroWest that receive all of their water supply from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). It covers the period from January to December 2003. MWRA was recently notified that we violated monitoring requirements for the lead and copper program. Although this is not an emergency, as our customers you have the right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we are doing to correct the situation.
All 28 MWRA fully-served communities regularly test for lead and copper in tap water at volunteer homes and schools. During a review of MWRA's lead and copper sampling program, DEP determined that MWRA communities have not always collected the required number of samples. Based on Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations, MWRA communities were required to sample a total of 440 samples in 2003. However, only 425 of the samples were collected. Because we collected too few samples, DEP's rules require the following language:
We are required to monitor your drinking water for specific contamination on a regular basis. Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not our drinking water meets health standards. During 2003, we did not complete all monitoring for lead and copper, and therefore cannot be sure of the quality of our drinking water as it relates to lead and copper during that time. Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.
What are the Lead Levels?
MWRA's source water and the water in distribution pipes in your town is lead free. However, water left in contact with lead pipes or fixtures for a long time can leach out lead. This can include your home plumbing, such as lead pipes, lead solder, and some brass fixtures, or the service line that connects the distribution main to your home plumbing, if it is made of lead. Under the Lead and Copper Rule, if more than 10% of tap water samples exceed the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), water systems must take additional steps, including changes to treatment. MWRA treatment changes since 1996 have reduced the amount of lead leaching from your plumbing. Lead levels have declined dramatically, finally getting below the action level in 2002. However, lead levels may have again exceeded the action level in 2003. Preliminary results show that 372 (88%) of the 425 samples collected were below the action level. 53 samples (12%) exceeded the action level. MWRA believes that some of those samples may not be valid. DEP is currently reviewing the samples to determine whether or not the MWRA and its member communities exceeded the lead action level. Contact MWRA at 617-242-5323 or go to www.mwra.com for more information on lead levels.
What should I do?
If you are concerned about the possibility of lead leaching from your home plumbing or service line, you may want to:
NOTE: Due to a layour error, this chart was corrected.
Click here for larger image
What is being done?
MWRA is working with communities to be sure that each community collects the required number of samples in 2004. A round of sampling, with the correct number of samples, was conducted in March 2004 under a DEP approved sampling plan. Results will be mailed to you in MWRA's annual water quality report this June. A second round of sampling will be taken in September 2004. Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses) or do not speak English. You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.
El anuncio contiene informacion importante sobre la calidad del aqua en su comunidad. Traduzcalo o hable con alguien que lo entienda bien.
For more information about your drinking water or our programs to improve the water system, please contact the MWRA at 617-242-5323 or visit our web site at http://www.mwra.com.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON LEAD IN DRINKING WATER FROM EPA
SOME HOMES IN THE MWRA SERVICE AREA HAVE ELEVATED LEAD LEVELS IN THEIR DRINKING WATER. LEAD CAN POSE A SIGNIFICANT RISK TO YOUR HEALTH. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING NOTICE.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and MWRA are concerned about lead in your drinking water. Although most homes have very low levels of lead in their drinking water, some homes in the community have lead levels above the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water (mg/L). Under federal law, MWRA has been required to have a program in place to minimize lead in your drinking water by July 1996. This program includes:
1. Corrosion control treatment (treating the water to make it less likely that lead will dissolve into the water); and
2. A public education program.
Based on sampling results, the following ten communities -Everett, Framingham, Lynnfield Water District, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Norwood, Somerville, Weston and Winthrop -will be conducting lead service replacement programs. If you have any questions, please contact your local water department (for contact information, see page 7 in the report).
This notice also explains simple steps you can take to protect yourself by reducing your exposure to lead in drinking water.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF LEAD: Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain, and pewter, and water. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body.
Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won't hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies.
In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination - like dirt and dust - that rarely affect an adult. It is important to wash children's hands and toys often, and to try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER: Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person's total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person's total exposure to lead.
HOW LEAD ENTERS OUR WATER: Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect your house to the water main (service lines). In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%. When water stands in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into your drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon after returning from work or school, can contain fairly high levels of lead.
STEPS TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO LEAD IN DRINKING WATER: Despite MWRA's best efforts mentioned earlier to control water corrosivity, lead levels in some homes or buildings can be high. To find out whether you need to take action in your own home, have your drinking water tested to determine if it contains excessive concentrations of lead. Testing the water is essential because you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. For more information on having your water tested, or a list of local laboratories, please call 617-242-5323 or go to www.mwra.com. If a water test indicates that the drinking water drawn from a tap in your home contains lead above 15 ppb, then you should take the following precautions:
FOR MORE INFORMATION: You can consult a variety of sources for additional information:
Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead.
State and local government agencies that can be contacted include:
The MWRA (617-242-5323 or http://www.mwra.com) can provide you with information about your community's water supply, and a list of local laboratories that have been certified by DEP for testing water quality.
Your local water department can provide you with information about building permit records that should contain the names of plumbing contractors that plumbed your home (see phone number on page 7);
The MA State Department of Public Health at 1-800-532-9571 can provide you with information about the health effects of lead and how you can have your child's blood tested.