Traces of lead have been found in water samples taken from some northeast Fresno homes, but city and state officials say the water is safe to drink as long as homeowners flush their taps for a minute or two.
The culprit of water discoloration found in the homes isn’t city wells, the surface water treatment plant or any supply lines, testing has found.
Instead, Fresno Public Utilities Director Thomas Esqueda said, the problem is somewhere inside the homes, likely caused by iron or copper pipe corrosion.
“We meet all the drinking water standards established by the feds and the state, so we’re good there,” Esqueda said at a City Hall news conference Thursday. “We’re trying to understand what is happening inside the house.”
We meet all the drinking water standards established by the feds and the state, so we’re good there.
Fresno Public Utilities Director Thomas Esqueda
The State Water Resources Control Board has been working with the city on the problem, though Kassy Chauhan, a senior sanitary engineer with the board, said “at this point there is no violation of any drinking water standard” by the city.
She said 20 water samples were collected from the homes for testing. Lead was found at a high enough level to prompt regulatory or remedial action, she explained in an email.
Chauhan indicated that where lead was found, it was the result of water sitting in pipes that have iron and lead leaching from them. “This is why we always suggest flushing prior to consumption of the water if discolored,” she said.
She said running water until it is clear removes any particulates that may have collected in a home’s plumbing. Once that is done, the water is safe to drink, Chauhan said.
In early January, city officials picked up on social media chatter among northeast Fresno residents who were concerned about the discolored water. They reached out to a resident to see if that person would be willing to participate in a sampling program – and if that resident could recruit others.
Starting Jan. 25, the city began testing in five homes scattered around an area bounded by Chestnut Avenue on the west, Gettysburg Avenue on the south, Willow Avenue on the east and Copper Avenue to the north.
Everything checked out fine, including pipes between the water main and the homes. The tests, however, found iron, zinc, copper and, in a few of the homes, lead. City officials are working with those residents to try to determine commonalities that could narrow the problem.
For instance, all five of the homes were built between 1990 and 1992. A second group of five homes have since been tested, but the city is still awaiting those results. Three homes were built in 1973, 1996, 1998 and two between 1990 and 1992. If the two homes built between 1990 and 1992 have similar issues to the first five, the discoloration issue could point to the time the homes were built.
Other possibilities being considered are whether the same developer built the homes or the same piping was used.
Because the problem is inside the homes, any fix would be the responsibility of the homeowner.
The residents have been running water until the discoloration disappears, and city officials are recommending any homeowners with similar issues do the same.