RATHDRUM, Idaho — The City of Rathdrum reported Thursday that several samples of water came back with higher than normal levels of lead.

According to the Rathdrum Public Works Department, three of 24 lead samples collected this year were above 15 parts per billion.

The results came after the city took samples from 23 residences between August and September. Results from three samples exceeded 15 parts per billion. City leaders said the results from the properties were 63, 32 and 30 parts per billion. The other samples ranged from 10 parts per billion to less than one part per billion.  

City leaders said this is the first time since they started testing for lead and copper in 1993 that lead sampling results required additional actions.

City Water Department staff have already collected samples from all wells supplying the city’s system and from distribution mains. They also collected confirmation samples from three locations that represent the areas where lead exceeded 15 parts per billion. The city’s investigation indicates one of the three samples was improperly collected.

City leaders hope to have laboratory analyses from the samplings back by Dec. 16. The city will be collecting two rounds of 40 samples for lead and copper from priority sampling locations during 2020.  

City leaders said they are working closely with the Idaho Department of Environment Quality drinking water staff. They’re working to provide customers with lead education information, investigate and address lead level concerns as quickly as possible.

According to the Environmental Protective Agency, the main sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust or soil and some plumbing materials. The EPA estimates that 10 -20% of a person's potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water. Infants who consume mostly formula mixed with lead-containing water can receive 40 -60% of their exposure to lead from drinking water.  

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Exposure to Lead in Your Water

1. Run your water to flush out lead. If the tap hasn't been used for several hours, run water for 15- 30 seconds to flush lead from interior plumbing or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking.

2. Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to cook, drink, or make baby formula.

3. Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.

4. Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality.

 5. Test your water for lead. Call us at the number listed below to find out how to get your water tested for lead. A list of Idaho certified laboratories is available online

6. Get your child’s blood tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead, if you are concerned about exposure.

7. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. Prior to January 2014, the law allowed fixtures, such as faucets, with up to 8% lead to be labeled as “lead free.” “Lead free” is now defined as a weighted average of less than or equal to 0.25%. Visit the National Sanitation Foundation website at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.

For more information, you can contact the City of Rathdrum at 208-687-2700 or visit their website. You can also contact Suzanne Scheidt, Senior Drinking Analyst at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality at 208-769-1422 or via email at Suzanne.scheidt@deq.idaho.gov.

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