BUCKHANNON – You’ve got mail.
Or you at least had some mail from the Buckhannon Water Department earlier this summer.
It was a letter from the city water department that asked customers served by city water lines to fill out a short survey identifying what type of water lines run through their homes, i.e., whether they’re made of pex/plastic, copper, galvanized steel, lead or some other kind of material. (If you mistakenly threw the survey away, give the department a call at 304-472-1430.)
That’s because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking all states and public water systems to create and maintain an inventory of all the lines in their systems – including the private lines in customers’ homes – said City of Buckhannon Water Department superintendent Kelly Arnold told My Buckhannon during a recent interview.
“Each system has to go through the same process, and it involves creating a spreadsheet to know basically what’s on our side, what’s on the customer’s side and what the [water lines] from their house to the water meter are made of,” Arnold said last week at the Water Plant on Wood Street. “We sent out a survey letter and a spreadsheet will be generated from that.”
The simple six-question survey asks what year the person’s home was built; if their water lines have ever been replaced and if so, when; and what type of water line runs between the home and the city water meter.
The EPA’s revised 2021 Lead and Copper rule mandates that all water systems remove lead service lines from their infrastructure, and in order to comply with the new requirements, the water department has to catalog all lines in its system, including utility customers’ private lines. The goal is to remove lead and copper from water lines because both can infiltrate drinking water via plumbing materials, and exposure to the materials can cause a wide range of health-related conditions that may afflict vital organs such as the stomach and brain, the EPA’s site says.
“I think they’re going to encourage people to replace them if their pipes are lead, obviously because of health reasons,” Arnold explained. “Years ago, some people used lead service lines, but for all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a lead service line going to a customer’s house [from the water meter].”
The water department letter says West Virginia has until Oct. 16, 2024, to complete the inventory, but Arnold, assistant water department superintendent Jerry Wamsley and chief water plant operator Jerry Myers are hoping to get a head start.
“We’d like to be ahead of the game instead of behind it,” Arnold said.
To fill out the survey, the water department recommends customers look under their sinks and in their basements, and if they need some help identifying the type of piping their water line is made from, stop by City Hall at 70 E. Main St., which has a few examples.
“They also have different types of pipes down there at city hall that we actually cleaned up to show examples of what a lead gooseneck was, for instance,” Arnold said. “A lead gooseneck is basically coming from the main connected to the service line that went to the meter on our side. All those pipes are there.”
One indicator that pipes are galvanized steel and not lead is a magnet will stick to the steel but not the lead.
“If anybody has any questions, we encourage them to call because we need as many surveys done as we can get,” Arnold said. “It’s better for us. Any part of that survey people can fill out would be beneficial for us to know.”
Anyone with questions can call 304-472-1430 or if you need help identifying water lines, you can make a request for service from your phone from iWorQ Service Request app; simply search for iWorQ Service Request in the app store and use the agency code ‘Buc01’.