Saranac Lake drinking water cited for lead

SARANAC LAKE – The state Health Department has cited the village for having too much lead in its drinking water.

DOH Public Health Engineer Susan Kennedy, in a July 17 letter to village Manger John Sweeney, said the village is in violation for exceeding the “action level for lead” based on samples conducted earlier this year. The letter was included in the agenda packet for Monday’s village board meeting.

When water stands in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve in drinking water. The state’s action level for lead is 15 micrograms per liter, the letter states. The 90th percentile (the 36th highest sample) for the village was 34 micrograms per liter, the letter states. Eight of the 40 samples taken in the village exceeded the threshold. Only four samples are allowed to exceed the action level when 40 samples are collected, Kennedy wrote.

The Health Department required the village to notify the public within 60 days. It provided a sample public notice to the village.

Sweeney said Monday that the village plans notify its water customers of the violation and outline its corrective action plan in time for the next billing cycle. He said village Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Kevin Pratt is in the process of resolving the problem.

Pratt told the Enterprise that the village is adding a corrosion control chemical called orthophosphate to the water system.

“It will coat the lining of the pipes and not allow the lead to get into the water,” he said. “It will be added at the new water treatment plant (behind the sewer plant).”

Before the village switched to a well-based water system in 2012, Pratt said the village used corrosion control chemicals on a regular basis to treat the water from its previous source, McKenzie Pond. The pH of the water in the pond was typically about 6.5, Pratt said.

“The Health Department, when we put the wells on, said ‘Let’s try it without it, since the pH of the water is 7.0, less corrosive,'” Pratt said. “We’ve been borderline for two years. We finally failed, so they issued a notice of violation and we’ve had to start adding corrosion control in.”

Pratt said he’s already begun adding the Health Department-approved chemical to the water. Asked how much he’s putting in, he said he just purchased 10 barrels, each of which has 30 gallons. The initial dose will be heavier at about 5 gallons per day, Pratt explained.

The 40 samples that led to the violation were taken throughout the village from Jan. 1 to July 1.

“It’s actually a bit of a finicky test,” Pratt said. “The test is at a residence approved by the Health Department. The way the sample is taken is the water sits unused in the pipes for six hours, then you turn the water on and fill the (test) bottle up. It’s really not a true test of the quality of the water in the village pipes.”

Pratt said the Health Department has asked the village to let the chemical run through the system and begin testing again in October.