Georgia Will Begin Auditing Water Utilities’ Lead Testing Sites

Brenda Goodman is a staff writer for WebMD.
For the first time, the Georgia Division of Environmental Protection (EPD) will audit the addresses where water systems collect their samples to be sure those sites are at the highest risk for lead contamination, according to Lewis Hays, who is EPD’s watershed compliance program manager.
Utilities usually sample 30 to 50 homes every three years.
The state’s policy changes come after a six-part investigation by Georgia Health News and WebMD in 2017 that found many water utilities fall short of federal standards by testing sites that shouldn’t qualify and in some cases, misrepresenting those sites on official forms submitted to the state.
Out of 105 mid-size and large water systems that the media organizations surveyed in Georgia last year: About half of these water systems — 58 — have tested some sites at lower risk for lead problems instead of focusing solely on those at highest risk.
Other stories in the series showed how people in homes that had tested high for lead had not been notified, as required by law, and how public health officials had a slow response to a child’s elevated lead levels.
“The Lead and Copper Rule’s requirement that water utilities monitor for lead at highest-risk homes and sample in a way that captures worst-case lead levels is foundational.
“We are glad to see the important steps that Georgia’s Division of Environmental Protection is taking to address the shortcomings in its lead sampling revealed by last year’s articles from Georgia Health News and WebMD.
For 25 years, state environmental regulators in Georgia have operated on an honor system, relying on water systems to properly select and report the sites where they have sampled water for lead.
Sources Lewis Hays, watershed compliance program manager, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection, Atlanta Yanna Lambrinidou, Ph.D., is affiliate faculty in the Science and Technology in Society Program at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg Tom Neltner, JD, chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.

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