By Ed Runyan
Valerie Meyers, operations supervisor and chemist at the Warren Water Treatment Plant, gave about 100 Warren G. Harding High School students an analogy to help them remember to reduce the amount of lead they consume in their water.
They should get in the habit of running the tap water at home 30 seconds to 21/2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking no matter what kind of plumbing and pipes they have, she said.
Run it shorter if the pipe to your house is short; run it longer if your house is a long way from the road, she said.
Here’s the analogy: Most people don’t just jump in the shower and turn on the water.
“So why would we turn on your sink and expect that water necessarily to be perfect when we walk in?” she said. “So what we’re asking you to do is pretend it’s like the shower. Turn it on, let it run for a few seconds and get rid of that stuff that’s been sitting there” in the pipes.
Experts say, depending on the age of a faucet, between six to 12 gallons of water could be used in 21/2 minutes.
Meyers was among the water-department officials who spoke to junior and senior students interested in science education. It is the second such presentation the department has made in recent weeks, having gone to Howland High School a few weeks ago.
The presentations are among the efforts the department has made after news accounts of lead problems in the water in Flint, Mich., and Sebring, as well as more-recent news reported by The Vindicator that Warren had high lead levels in 2008 that were corrected by spring 2010.
Among the more-condemning aspects of the stories has been the lack of information the people in those communities received from public officials.
Part of Meyers’ presentation was an explanation of the “82,000 tests” the water-filtration plant and staff of 10 plant operators and two lab personnel she supervises run each year to monitor and analyze the water. The plant is on Elm Road in Bazetta Township.
Meyers explained how the plant is monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, how it spends roughly $80,000 per year to add carbon to the water to improve the smell, adds fluoride to improve people’s teeth and how it uses computers to run software to watch for trends.
“You probably haven’t heard about that lately,” she said of all of the careful work that goes into making the water safe for drinking. “What have you heard?”
One student mentioned lead.
“You heard about some lead and copper. So all of those tests we do – 82,000 tests per year, plus – you’ve heard about one test that we run every three years,” she said of news coverage of Warren having two high lead readings on Perkinswood Boulevard Southeast in 2015 and the city having to notify all its water customers after it had too many high lead levels in 2008.
In 2008, two consecutive sets of tests had too many high-lead levels to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements, she said.
“There was an elevation. There was a slight elevation on the lead sampling,” she said of the first sample of 30 homes.
So the city did a corrosion-control study and adjusted the acidity of the water leaving the treatment plant by adding lime. Since 2010, only a few high test results have occurred in each round of tests, keeping the city in compliance with EPA standards.
But because some individual homes, including hers in Warren, have lead lines that can produce elevated lead levels in the water, she told the students they should all let the water run a little while.
She talked about water that has been sitting overnight in the waterline that runs from the city’s water main into their home.
“All that water that’s been sitting in there – especially when it warms up – it kind of pulls the metals off [of the pipes], like it’s cooking in there, and you’re going to have whatever’s in that line is going to be in the first few flushes of water,” she said.
Aisha Jackson, a Harding senior, said after the presentation thought it was “pretty cool that they have someone on duty 24 hours checking the water so if there is a problem, they would be on top of it.”
Ki-Sean Porterfield, a Harding junior, said he found it interesting that Meyers said everyone should let the water run before drinking it or using it for cooking because people at his house don’t do that now.
Franco Lucarelli, Warren utilities director, said there also will be presentations for adults in the future. But the advice Meyers gave to the students is “a good practice for all.”
Vince Romeo, water treatment plant superintendent, said he’s applying for grants to eliminate the 400 to 800 lead-service lines that still are being used in Warren.