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lead service pipes, lead in the garden?

 
Posts: 20
Location: Portland, OR
dog chicken bee
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I hope this question is in the correct forum, wasn't sure where to put it.

I recently moved to Denver, and guess what?  Just found out we have a lead service line:

https://www.denverwater.org/your-water/water-quality/lead

I've been watering the seedlings from the garden hose.  Have I been adding lead to my veggie beds?  What are the ramifications?  Any idea on how to mitigate this while I wait for the city to get around to replacing the service line?

Thanks in advance!
 
gardener
Posts: 416
Location: Western Kentucky
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Most places have to check the water for lead contamination regularly, I believe, if they use lead pipes in their system. If the PH is acidic, it will be more likely to dissolve lead into the water, and if the water stagnates it can as well.
 
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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Lead is obviously unwelcome in the garden, and the greatest danger is when ingested by children. I know that the urban backyard garden plot societies around here test for heavy metals before growing. I'm guessing that a spill of leaded gas from way back or lead paint from old buildings would be the primary sources.

I doubt the amount carried by water would be significant in the short term. It's the cumulative effect that would give me pause.

As I understand it, lead in the soil is not taken up into plants, but rather mechanically adheres as part of the soil. Root vegetables are the biggest concern, and need to be washed/scrubbed very thoroughly or peeled.

Labs will do a heavy metals analysis for a fee (I have been quoted $150 CAD) which is rather spendy. Maybe talk to the city. Do they offer soil testing for heavy metals on a free or subsidized basis? Peace of mind is worth a lot.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Christine

Does not the utility supplying your water provide a complete analysis once a year or more showing various properties of the water they deliver? I believe there are still some public health laws in effect that mandate this and also that it be publicly available. It may be more difficult to find where, if any "field" tests are made (as opposed to tests at the purifying plant). But there are probably some of those around as well. Since lead has been a big public issue for many years, cities with lead services often have specific publications addressing the issue and there most likely will have been some spirited talk about the problem in your locality. Google is your friend, but see below.

You local public health department may be the best place to start if you wish to get facts. The can direct you to various bureaucracies and also connect you with other organizations that provide info on public health. Another place to contact directly would be "higher" education centers around your area - meaning w/in, say,  100 miles. When a department wants to do studies (professors need to publish, after all) they don't just look around the campus but go to the data. Antarctica, even, but likely Denver has been targeted for various research. The academics can also refer you to others and other info; not just the professors, but lots of people work in a department and handle research work. Finding past, or even ongoing, conversation about your interest on the net may be helpful, also.

Seeing as there have been no serious outcrys in Denver, it's likely that the lead services for domestic drinking water do not have a noticeable affect. Running that water through the ground and plants would further dilute is. Where you might want to be careful is the issue of lead paint, but that mostly effects children who eat it. I grew up in a house with a lead service; if there has been an affect, I haven't noticed it. Consider that there have probably been millions of lead services in place for more than 100 years. Significant data has been collected since at least the 1960's and probably earlier. There have been water supply problems from many different sources, some of them lead like in Flint some industrial chemicals like Crestwood outside of Chicago where the mayor went to jail. But lead services have not proven to be, as a whole, a huge problem. Not a good thing, for sure, but also not usually (as in for decades over 100,000's of people in recent and current history, public health people have begun to monitor for it) something that harmed people noticeably.

It's true that "noticeably" isn't the same as "never, ever, promised by God". To my knowledge nothing in this mundane world passes that test. Good enough has to make do because there _are_ serious problems that we can measure and prove which damage people day in and day out. Damage you, too. Probably with our own individual resources it makes more sense to worry about something that proveably hurts us. That's not so say that there may be other yet undiscovered problems with Denver's and your water. But the chance seems very small. But we do have resources to learn of problems today. The Crestwood criminal who poisoned his whole town was brought down by an ordinary mother who didn't believe her children got sick by themselves.

If this concern is serious to you, then it's probably worth the $$$ to get _your_ water analyzed. But if you explore some of the resources I mentioned above (you'll find others, I'm sure) you may discover there are very reasonably priced ways to get a good test. Certainly worth a little look about. The other alternative would be getting the service replaced. On a "retail" basis, that's likely $7-10k. If you gather some neighbors (the whole area is probably serviced the same way, barring big remodel projects) on your block you might bring down the cost a lot; if you became an "activist" and became successful enough for lots of people (bureaucrats) to just wish you'd disappear it's possible you might get the whole neighborhood upgraded by the city. But that's a huge project and expense, so you _will_ be hated, at least by the budget committee if  you get that on the agenda!


Regards,
Rufus
 
Posts: 385
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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You could run your water for awhile before watering your garden or drinking or cooking. Particularly in the morning or when a line hasn't been used for a while The longer the water sits in the pipes the more it absorbs. Sometimes you can taste it.
 
Rufus Laggren
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Attached is a price list from a certified lab for water testing. Be sure to examine the website for caveats and also search for certified labs nearer to you. I found this site while searching for soil testing labs and it seemed fairly easy to understand.

https://www.amaglab.com/

Here's one that popped up in CO
http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/


Regards,
Rufus
Filename: bldg_water_test_Amag_Fees.pdf
File size: 857 Kbytes
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