Charlotte to expand lead tests in drinking water

Technicians test water samples at Charlotte Water's Environmental Services Facility in January.
Technicians test water samples at Charlotte Water's Environmental Services Facility in January. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Water will expand its tests for lead in drinking water after the crisis in Flint, Mich., that exposed many homeowners to the toxic metal.

Charlotte’s utility on Monday released its annual water-quality report that showed no violations of federal standards for 2015. For the first time, the report links to an interactive map of water test results.

Director Barry Gullet said the utility will expand its testing and communication efforts with residents, partly in response to media coverage of Flint.

“We believe it’s important that our customers in Charlotte know that our drinking water is great,” Gullet told City Council’s environment committee.

Lead in drinking water most often comes from old service lines between water mains and homes, or from the solder used in some plumbing fixtures.

Because it has not shown to have problems with lead, Charlotte tests for the metal only every three years. Three testing sites in 2013 found lead above the level that requires corrective action, but the city utility didn’t violate the overall federal standard.

This year’s tests will be expanded to include schools and areas where lead service lines are expected to still be in use, Gullet said.

State regulators recently cited the city for rust-colored water in the Wesley Heights neighborhood near uptown. The utility said that happened as crews updated old water lines and blamed an inadvertently closed valve.

Charlotte Water came close to a federal violation last year for high levels of chemical byproducts from disinfecting water. They are called trihalomethanes, which can cause liver, kidney and central nervous system problems and may increase cancer risks.

The utility announced the high levels last summer and traced them to Duke Energy’s use, since ended, of a coal-washing agent at a power plant on Lake Norman. Charlotte Water draws its water from Lake Norman and downstream Mountain Island Lake.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender