High levels of lead found in 4 Tacoma homes; more to be tested

Tacoma Water officials detected lead above the EPA recommendations in four homes south of Lincoln High School.

Key developments: 

  • One home tested nearly four times the amount that’s designated as safe.
  • The problem could affect many more people, once additional testings are done.
  • Up to 2 percent of Tacoma Water customers, or some 1,700 homes in the city could be at risk. 
  • A Tacoma Water spokesperson says the water is not contaminated.
  • Officials looked at the water lines leading to these homes and not the homes themselves.
  • The water crisis in Flint, Michigan prompted lead tests in Tacoma. 

They pinpointed that lead parts called gooseneck pipes, made out of lead, may be to blame.

Tacoma Water currently estimates that up to 1,700 lead goosenecks may still exist in the area it serves.

Tacoma Water leaders says they do not know what that means yet, and whether or not people in the homes were exposed.

"We don't believe people are in danger. We are going to do some very expensive testing to validate that and verify that, and if we are wrong, we will come back and tell them so,"  Tacoma Deputy Water Superintendent Chris McMeen said, though it is not known when expanded testing will begin.

>> After lead levels were found in Tacoma homes, Seattle Public Utilities asked all water customers to run water for two minutes, if the water has not been run for more than six hours. Click here for details. Scroll down to keep reading about Tacoma. 

Tacoma Water officials said aside from gooseneck pipes, homes with galvanized pipes could also be at risk due to leaking lead.

Galvanized pipes are iron pipes used for homes built before the 1950s.

Tacoma Schools says Tacoma Water has no lead water pipe connections at any of the schools or district facilities.

Here are some steps to help protect you and your family from lead contamination:

  • Experts said it's a good idea to flush tap water for a few minutes before using, especially if water sits stagnant for six hours.
  • Also use cold tap water for cooking and drinking
  • Consider buying water filters to help remove lead
  • Use a test kit to check for lead

On Friday, Tacoma Water officials say they have heard from about 1400 residents who are concerned if their water supply is tainted with lead.

Tacoma Water released a Q&A. Here's some major points pulled from the website.

Is it at all possible that it’s the source – not the pipes and fittings? 

No. The water for all of our sources – the Green River and every well – is tested for lead before it enters our distribution system.

How common are lead goosenecks?

[Tacoma Water] currently estimates that there are up to 1,700 galvanized services that may have goosenecks; they were common in homes built in the period between 1900 and the early 1940s. [Tacoma Water has] been removing them since the 1980s. Goosenecks only come with galvanized pipes, but not all galvanized pipes have goosenecks.

Have customers whose water was tested been informed of the results?

Yes. [Tacoma Water] notified the four customers, requested their help to conduct further testing, and advised them to consistently flush stagnant water through their system prior to using it for drinking or cooking.

Does the problem go further than the four houses tested? If so, how far?

[Tacoma Water doesn't] know yet, but we are working to find out. [Tacoma Water] understands that many customers will have concerns about the safety of their water. Until they have answers about who this affects, they we encourage people to run their water for at least two minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking. The presence of lead can be higher when water is stagnant, so running the water will flush it out of the system. Regular tests throughout our system over many years have shown very low levels of lead.

Should all Tacoma Water customers be concerned?

Tacoma Water says it understands that finding high levels of lead in a water system is a cause for concern. Until they can provide more information, they recommend people served by Tacoma Water run their water for at least two minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking. This is a temporary, precautionary measure.

Can customers can get their water tested on their own? Yes. There are two state-certified labs in Tacoma that accept samples from the general public and are certified to run drinking water samples for lead:

  • Spectra Analytical Inc.
  • 2221 Ross Way, Tacoma, WA 98421
  • (253) 272-4850
  • Water Management Laboratories
  • 1515 80th St. E., Tacoma, WA 98404
  • (253) 531-3121

Do I need to be worried about my health?

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recommends checking with your doctor if you are concerned about health effects from lead. Useful information can be found on the Health Department's Web site, as well as the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

KIRO 7 News will send an alert when we learn about expanded testing. Click here to download the app to get the alert.