There was a lead contamination scare in Brazil in early May when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was contacted by a Brazil resident. The unidentified woman said she suspected her family was being exposed to lead contamination from lead-based paint chips that had peeled off of the town's water tower.
Mayor Tom Arthur and the Clay County Health Department were consulted and state agents were quickly sent to Brazil to field test the area. Samples of paint, soil and dust residue were tested from the water tower and from around the area. After preliminary testing done that day, Amy Hartsock, Public Information Officer of the IDEM notified Brazil officials that results showed there were no lead concentration levels of any concern. Final results several weeks later confirmed those findings.
Mayor Arthur and Clay County Health Department officials William Hale R.E.H.S. and Jennifer Lucas R.N., have addressed the issue of potential danger as well as preventative measures and treatment.
After consulting with city engineer, Brian Pohlar, Arthur provided a statement hoping to answer any questions local residents may have.
"On March 22, 2004, the City of Brazil contracted with Tank Industry Consultants, Inc., (TIC) of Indianapolis, Ind., to conduct a study of the elevated water tank located on North Vandalia Street.
The tank was built in 1956 by Pittsburgh-DesMoines Steel Company, according to the tank nameplate. The tank has a capacity of 750,000 gallons and the top water level is 122 feet from the ground when the tank is full. The water tank helps to provide water pressure and fire protection throughout the city.
According to the report conducted by TIC, the coating on the exterior and interior of the tank contain heavy metals (lead and chromium). At the time the tank was built and last painted, the use of lead-based coatings was standard practice.
In 1978 lead-based paint's sale for consumer use was banned. There is currently no regulation prohibiting the application of lead-based paint for industrial use; however, special precautions and regulations must be followed when lead-based paint is removed or disposed of. Most housing built before 1978 probably contains some lead-based paint if it has not been abated.
Lead-based paint can be a problem if it creates dust that could be inhaled or ingested. The City of Brazil conducted samplings of the soil surrounding the water tower in May of 2004. The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that any areas of bare soil where concentrations exceed 400 parts per million and are expected or intended to be used by children should have remediation and further testing done. Three soil samples were taken and tested and all samples were below 100 parts per million concentration.
Every three years, the Brazil City Water Works is required by the Indiana Department of Health to conduct twenty (20) on-site tests of water. Ten of these tests are collected from residential homes, and ten are collected from commercial customers. The samples are then sent to an independent lab in Madison, Indiana.
The samples are tested for lead and copper after the water has traveled from the wells, through the plant, through the distribution system and even through individual homes and businesses. The samples are then ranked in order from the lowest to highest level of lead and copper.
The city is required to evaluate the 90th percentile sample to determine whether the water works is in compliance with state standards. The last test was conducted in August 2002; with the next test scheduled for 2005.
According to the 2002 test the 90th percentile sample results were 0.0040 mg/l for lead and 0.3290 mg/l for copper. According to state standards, the lead level is not to exceed 0.015 mg/l and 1.3 mg/l for copper, therefore, all tests were within acceptable levels.
Mayor Arthur and his staff are currently evaluating the next step with the water tank. TIC estimated to refurbish the current forty-eight (48) year old tank would cost approximately $618,000.
TIC also indicated to replace the tower would cost approximately $950,000 with a life expectancy of about 75 plus years for the new structure. Also, the city would be eligible to apply for a community focus fund grant with the Indiana Department of Commerce in the amount of $500,000 for a new tank; this option is not available for refurbishment.
The city will be conducting an engineering study of the wells, distribution system and tank within the next few months to evaluate options for improvements to the water system."
Tomorrow: County Health Department discusses symptoms of lead poisoning.