Older houses pose threat of hazardous drinking water

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FULTON - With the threat of dangerous, lead-ridden water showing up in headlines because of the disaster in Flint, Michigan, Missourians may need to take a look at their homes' water as well. 

Older houses throughout the country, and in mid-Missouri, are often built with lead pipes, and remain in place unless the houses are renovated. 

"Unless they have gutted the building and changed the water line, you never know what's in there without having it tested," said Zack Hornbuckle, a plumber in Fulton.

Lead pipes themselves aren't necessarily dangerous, he said, unless the pipes are leached. That's when lead gets into the water supply and threatens the health of those consuming it. 

Merriam-Webster defines leaching as "to remove (a chemical, a metal, etc.) from a substance by the action of a liquid passing through the substance : to release (a chemical, a metal, etc.) when a liquid passes through."

Unlike Flint's water, which is full of heavy metals, water in mid-Missouri leaves calcium behind and that calcium could leach an old pipe or lead solder. 

"If you would see the guy who repairs your water heater and see the piles of calcium, a five gallon bucket, you would pay attention after that," said Rod Robinson, a salesman with home store Riback DKB in Columbia.

For those building a house or remodeling, there is no longer a danger of adding lead to a house if you're buying new appliances. 

Starting in January 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency reduced the maximum allowable lead content of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures to 0.25 percent. 

Because the new law wasn't grandfathered in, companies that sold plumbing fixtures and the like had to get rid of all products that did not meet the new requirements. 

"If I told you how much we ate, it was huge," said Barry Meyer, a salesman at Riback DKB.

Fulton's water supervisor said there's only one way to know for sure if the water in a home has lead.

Dave Martin said, "If you really want to know, 100 percent certainty, get it tested."

All the water from city sources in Fulton, Columbia and other mid-Missouri cities, is tested multiple times a month, if not multiple times a day, Martin said. 

Anyone wanting to find out if there's lead from pipes getting in their water at home, testing options are available.

According to Martin, lead testing kits are available from a hardware store or online. The water is sent to a private tester, but must be checked within 30 hours, so overnight shipping is required.

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