Residents of Harmony Village Manufactured Home Community in southeast Fort Collins may have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water, according to the results of a city-conducted test.
The 450-home park, 2500 E. Harmony Road, has issued two boil order notices in the last five months, one in December and another in March. After the second notice, three residents requested that the city test their water for lead contamination.
Testing found lead levels beyond federal drinking water standards in one water sample from the park, but follow-up tests found no detectable lead. Fort Collins Utilities staff don’t know the exact source of the potential contamination, but they don’t believe it’s coming from city water supplies.
The city doesn’t have any known lead service lines and is working on identifying and replacing all galvanized service lines and lead goosenecks (curved pipes that connect the water main to the service line) as part of its Safe Water Action Program. Fort Collins Utilities’ source water contains trace amounts of lead that are typically below detectable levels, according to the results of regulatory testing.
Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division will handle any further investigation of the potential water contamination. The state requires public water systems to sample and test water regularly for a range of contaminants. The park’s 2022 draft water quality report says no contaminants were detected during 2021 sampling.
Any public water system in violation of regulatory standards has to follow an increased testing schedule and may be required to take actions such as adding corrosion control substances to water to address lead contamination.
Coming soon:Fort Collins’ plastic bag ban takes effect May 1. Here’s what to know.
Park management didn’t return a call from the Coloradoan requesting more information.
The park’s second boil order notice, issued March 18, warned residents of potential water contamination from bacteria, viruses or parasites after a broken water main lowered pressure in the park’s water distribution system. Boiling water can kill organisms, but it doesn’t mitigate lead contamination and can actually make it worse because some water evaporates during the boiling process.
The notice instructed residents to boil water for one minute before using it for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes or preparing food. The notice stated that the issue would likely be resolved in two days but residents should continue boiling their water until further notice.
Fort Collins Utilities conducts free water quality testing at residents’ request. After residents contacted the city, staff took water samples from three homes between March 26 and March 28, said Utilities Water Quality Services Director Jill Oropeza.
The city analyzed all three samples for lead because residents had told staff they were specifically concerned about lead contamination. They also analyzed two of the samples for E. coli and total coliforms bacteria.
The water samples were negative for E. coli and total coliforms bacteria. One sample had a lead concentration of 18 micrograms per liter, higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 micrograms per liter. The other two samples had much lower or undetectable levels of lead, Oropeza said.
The city informed the resident with the high lead result about precautionary measures such as not drinking the water, running water to flush their pipes and using a water filter to remove lead. Staff also carried out follow-up testing at that home and at the park’s water main, but they didn’t detect lead in the follow-up samples.
Recent:Parklane Mobile Home Park residents receive $1 million from Larimer County to buy park
City staff aren’t sure why the follow-up test didn’t confirm the findings of the first test. Possible factors for the high lead result could include sample contamination, a long duration of stagnant water in pipes, or contribution of metals from a home’s premise plumbing or water heater, staff said.
“Generally speaking, lead does not come from our water supplies,” Oropeza wrote in an email. “If it is present in water, it will come from the plumbing leading to or inside a home.”
Lead has been banned as a material for pipes and other plumbing materials since 1986, but older pipes and soldering may still contain lead and contaminate treated water through corrosion. The issue is particularly problematic for mobile home parks, which typically operate and maintain their own water systems with one meter for the whole park. Residents have limited recourse if the park’s water delivery system contains lead plumbing materials.
While the EPA’s action level for lead is 15 micrograms per liter, no level of lead in water is considered safe. Lead exposure is linked to short- and long-term health issues as well as slowed growth and development in children. Federal regulators consider lead a likely carcinogen.
What to do if you’re concerned about potential lead contamination
Fort Collins Utilities offered these tips to minimize potential exposure to lead in your drinking water:
- Flush your pipes if water has been sitting in the service line for longer than six hours (first thing in the morning, coming home from work or vacation).
- Always use cold water to drink, cook and do things like make coffee or baby formula. You cannot boil lead out of water.
- Regularly clean faucet aerators/faucet screens.
- Install a water filter that is designed and certified to remove lead.
The city also conducts free water quality testing for residents. Find more information at fcgov.watersmart.com/index.php.
Mobile home park residents who are concerned about water quality, infrastructure or responsibility for repairs can contact the Colorado Mobile Home Park Oversight Program to file a complaint at cdola.colorado.gov/mobile-home-park-oversight, via email to [email protected] or 1-833-924-1147. If you have more immediate concerns about the mineral or bacterial contents of Fort Collins drinking water, contact Neighborhood Services at [email protected] or 970-224-6046.
You can also use the city’s online search tool to see if the city service lines leading to your home contain lead goosenecks or galvanized pipes that are prone to water quality issues: fcgov.com/utilities/galvanized-service-line-look-up.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.