Lawrence homeowners face a costly solution if their tap water contains lead levels higher than federal limits, local plumbers say.
City utilities officials reported Wednesday that samples of tap water taken from eight Lawrence homes contained levels of lead that exceed federal standards.
Getting the lead levels in a home water system within safe parameters can be expensive. For example, replacing pipe for a home's drinking water system would run between $800 and $2,000, say local plumbers.
That price does not include the cost of ripping out and then repairing walls and floors to install pipes. And water filtering systems can cost more than twice that sum.
In the meantime, concerned residents can do little more than let their taps run for a while to flush out lead particles.
Eight of 60 homes the city tested showed lead levels over 15 parts per billion, a new federal standard.
The highest reading in Lawrence was 676 parts per billion 45 times greater than the acceptable federal limit. High concentrations of lead can cause serious health problems in humans.
Each of the eight homes was constructed between 1983 and 1988, when builders used a lead solder on water pipes that later was banned, said Shari Stamer, the city's laboratory services supervisor.
THE CITY issued more than 1,300 building permits between 1983 and 1988 for new single-family residences. The city targeted homes built during that period in testing for possible solder problems.
Utilities officials refuse to release exact locations of the homes with high lead content in their water, but said seven of the homes were west of U.S. Highway 59. They believe the problem lies with pipes inside homes, making owners responsible.
Residents can test their drinking water for $19 at Professional Service Industries, said Heatheryn Higgens, who works in client relations for the firm.
"It's a simple one-container test," said Higgens. Residents receive a container and instructions to not use a faucet for at least eight hours, and preferably overnight, before a sample is taken.
Test results should be available in 10 working days, she said.
IF SAMPLED water shows a lead level higher than federal limits, the homeowner has few options.
Plumbing contractors can replace drinking water pipes for between $800 and $2,000 in a 1 -bathroom home. "It depends on how much structure you get into," said Kurt Guntert, sales manager for Chaney Incorporated, a local plumbing firm.
Ripping into finished walls and floors to extricate and install piping drives up the cost, Guntert said. Thus, changing pipes in a one-story ranch-style home would be less expensive than in a two-story abode.
"If you've got a two-story house with two baths upstairs, your cost could be around $2,500 or more by the time you have the walls fixed," said Kenny Breithaupt, owner of Action Plumbing.
For about twice that sum, owners could purchase a water filtering system, which will bring lead levels within federal standards.
Frank Lawrence, finance manager for United Standard of Lawrence, a dealer of water treatment systems, said the sticker price on such a system would run about $5,100.
IN THE MEANTIME, residents concerned about lead levels in their water can follow these suggestions for reducing the risk of exposure:
Let tap water run for 15 or more seconds before using water from the faucet.
Use water from the cold water tap for cooking.
Check to see if lead solder was used when plumbing was installed.
Inquiries about lead testing have picked up in the past few months, Higgens said.
"People in town are concerned about it. I've been getting about 50 calls a day. It's just become a lot more prevalent in the media," she said.