Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed

Published 12:10 am Thursday, February 25, 2021

SALISBURY — Almost three weeks after lead and copper testing kits were sent to customers on the county’s Northeast Rowan Water System, results are starting to filter in.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 14 approved a $37,067 contract with 120Water for the Indiana-based company to distribute both Brita filtration pitchers and water testing kits to each customer on the system, which is located in the Dukeville area. Testing the water supply of each customer is a part of Rowan County’s larger strategy to reduce the elevated levels of lead that were detected in several customers’ drinking water. The elevated lead levels are believed to be originating from lead soldering in the pipes in some customers’ homes.

By Feb. 5, water testing kits had been shipped by 120Water to the approximately 160 customers who rely on the water line. As of Wednesday afternoon, County Manager Aaron Church reported that 40 water samples have been analyzed by Pace Analytics Lab, who was contracted by 120Water to conduct the testing. Of those 40 samples, one was found to have elevated levels of lead. 

Church said the customer has been notified and the county talked with them about the issue. The customer has received a Brita pitcher and filters.

“No amount of lead is acceptable,” Church said. “Lead is dangerous and it can be harmful. It can cause serious health problems.”

Church said that the current participation level is concerning, but that he expects the customer compliance level to climb in the coming days and weeks as samples are received and tested by the lab. There are also still about 10 water sampling kits that have not been received by customers, Church said.

Using software provided to the county by 120Water, Church monitors the status of the water sampling effort on a daily basis.

The goal is to gain 100% participation in the water testing, Church said, so that the county has an accurate picture of the problem and can determine the best way to reduce elevated levels of lead.

The current plan is to build a chemical booster station on the water system that would inject a pipe-coating chemical into the water supply that would prevent any lead from seeping into customers’ drinking water. Commissioners have already approved designs for the booster station.

The county conducted a pre-bid conference regarding the chemical booster station on Wednesday to give potential bidders more information about the project, which could cost the county an estimated $630,000. Bids will open on the project in the coming weeks, Church said.

Church said he hopes to have every customer’s water sample tests analyzed and completed by March 15.

To incentivize customers to complete the water tests, the county is offering a $72 credit on their water bill if they return a water sample following the enclosed instructions and using the pre-paid delivery packet. Church said that the credit will be issued soon, but not in the next two months.

As for the Brita pitchers and accompanying filters, Church said that all but about two pitchers have been delivered. He said that the county has tried “numerous times” to make contact with the owner of the water accounts and will continue to do so.

Overall, Church said that 120Water has done an “outstanding job” distributing sampling kits and Brita pitchers.

More information about the county’s efforts to reduce lead levels in the Northeast Rowan Water System can be found online at rowancountync.gov or by contacting Church directly at 704-216-8180.