Harford health department gives update on lead in local communities

In the months since high lead levels were found in drinking water in a Forest Hill development last summer, the Harford County Health Department has continued to reach out to residents of several neighborhoods in both Fallston and Forest Hill.

But information provided about the potential risks for elevated lead levels has elicited much concern, nor have any additional positive tests been reported, according to a health department spokesman.

More neighborhoods than just Grafton Ridge, where the lead problem was initially raised, were targeted by the health department to receive information about the potential for lead in their water and the health issues that might result.

At a community meeting in July, the health department announced that testing in Grafton Ridge, which is located off Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill, showed elevated lead levels in the water.

Public Information Officer William Wiseman, of the health department, said in August that the data suggested the lead levels were related to the homes' well water distribution systems.

During the first community meeting, a representative from Richmond American, which built the homes in the development, said the company believed the lead levels were caused by a brass T-valve in the distribution system that could have leached lead after being in contact with acidic Harford County water.

The representative also said the brass T-valves would be replaced with stainless steel ones.

Between October and November 2011, the health department sent letters to residents of the Grafton Ridge, Saddleview, Watervale Farms, Martin Meadows and Deer Hollow communities, Wiseman wrote in a recent e-mail.

The letters included information about lead risks in plumbing fixtures, changes in Maryland plumbing regulations and federal Environmental Protection Agency recommendations for flushing drinking water before consuming it in cases where the lead levels were from the distribution system, Wiseman added.

In addition, the department offered to collect and water samples.

Out of 175 letters sent, however, Wiseman wrote that the department only received 10 requests for sampling.

Of those 10, nine tests were completed as of March 23 and all showed lead levels below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion, according to Wiseman.

He also added that contractors for Richmond American Homes obtained plumbing permits to be able to replace parts. Richmond American is also conducting its own water sampling, Wiseman added.

The health department is still accepting requests for water samples in those particular neighborhoods, Wiseman wrote, and anyone looking for more information on lead in drinking water is encouraged to visit http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com for a frequently asked questions page.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a Richmond American representative had not responded to an e-mail requesting comments.

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