In the process of researching this article, Mountain Xpress discovered that even staffers at local water departments seemed confused (or at least uncertain) about the lead content of their water-service parts.
Several water-department staffers in key positions were adamant that they were using no-lead service parts — but when Xpress researched the model numbers and brand names they gave us, it turned out that these parts are actually made of leaded brass.
Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that, under federal law, the manufacturers don’t have to disclose the lead content of their brass alloys if it’s less than 8 percent.
In any case, here’s a brief rundown on local water systems:
• Regional Water Authority of Asheville, Buncombe and Henderson: is using no-lead water meters and leaded-brass service parts. In their latest monitoring round in June, only five out of 52 homes showed any detectable lead (one of them was above the maximum allowable level — 0.015 parts per billion — which may not be strict enough, according to the new research.
• Hendersonville Water and Sewer Department: leaded-brass water meters and service parts. In their latest monitoring round in September, nine out of 33 homes showed detectable lead (six of them were out of compliance).
• Woodfin Sanitary, Water and Sewage District: was still researching the lead content of their water meters and service parts as we went to press. In their latest monitoring round in September, four out of 20 homes showed detectable lead.
• Weaverville Water Department: no-lead water meters, leaded-brass service parts. Their 2003 monitoring results are not yet in, but in 2002, four out of 40 houses were out of compliance. No information on how many houses showed any detectable lead.
— Lisa Watters