Phone calls were up Thursday morning to two labs in Tacoma that test water samples for contaminants as news spread about lead found in a small sampling of water in South Tacoma.
Most of the calls received by Spectra Analytical Inc. were from people who want to know how much lead is in their water, said lab manager Steve Hibbs.
“It was a shot across the bow for sure, particularly on the heels of the Flint, Michigan, story,” Hibbs said of the news that came late Wednesday that Tacoma Water found high levels of lead at water lines leading to four homes south of Lincoln High School.
Water Management Laboratories President Christa Garrettson said her lab fielded at least a dozen calls by midmorning from people wanting to know how to get their water tested and how much it would cost.
“Anytime there is any type of article or anything on the news (about contamination) we get an influx of inquiries and then some samples,” Garrettson said. “Lead is something you can’t see by the visible eye. You need to have it tested to know.”
Spectra and Water Management are state-certified and accept water from the general public.
People who want immediate results can pay $27 for a 24- to 48-hour turnaround from Spectra Analytical. The lab also offers results within seven business days for $18.
Water Management Laboratories charges $25 and can return results within five to seven working days, Garrettson said.
People who want to have their water tested should follow these steps:
▪ Use a container provided by a lab or use plastic water bottles that previously held bottled water;
▪ Collect 1 liter of cold water;
▪ Collect water first thing in the morning before toilets are flushed or taps are run, or after a six- to eight-hour period of no use.
Once at the lab, the water will be tested by “extremely sensitive” equipment designed to test for metals in soils and water, Hibbs said.
A report is then generated that lists levels of contamination. Anything above 15 parts per billion exceeds the federal limit for lead.
Both labs said they are available to answer questions about results.
“If people can’t decipher it, all they have to do is call the lab,” Garrettson said. “We definitely will help them, or if we’re unable then they will need to speak to a chemist and they will explain it to them.”
Spectra plans to “arrange staff and instrument time specifically to accommodate the larger than normal sample flow,” it expects to see from Tacoma residents worried about lead contamination, Hibbs said.
Water Management is open on Saturday and Garrettson expects they’ll see more people come in then with samples.
If lead levels above the federal limit are found, people will be directed to state Department of Health for guidance on next steps.
That could include everything from installing a filter to remove lead from the tap to replacing plumbing fixtures.
For more information visit the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department website dedicated to lead at tpchd.org/lead.
Pediatrics Northwest spokeswoman DeAnna Dudley said the health care provider’s two Tacoma offices hadn’t seen an increase in calls from parents worried about elevated lead levels in their children. But that’s likely to change after recent publicity about high lead levels found in South Tacoma, she said.
“With it being on the front page of the TNT, we do expect more parents to be calling in,” Dudley said Thursday afternoon.
If parents are concerned, they should call their child’s doctor to set up a blood test. Pediatrics Northwest doctors follow state Department of Health guidelines for how to respond if lead levels are elevated, Dudley said.
For more information on state health department guidelines for testing for lead in children, including reducing exposure, visit doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/HealthyHome/Contaminants/Lead/Testing.