Some Elgin water system customers may have unacceptably high levels of lead and copper in their tap water.
The problem is similar to that experienced in Columbia, and it apparently is caused by leaching from pipes and pipe fittings in homes built from 1983 to 1987.
The town this week is hand-delivering brochures about lead and copper levels to each of its 1,300 water customers.
Later, customers will receive lists of private laboratories that will test water for a fee. Information about lead is being sent to parents of young children by Elgin schools and day-care centers.
Exposure to lead can cause brain damage and is particularly dangerous to children under 6 and pregnant women.
This is the first time Elgin has tested lead levels under new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Water samples from 40 homes were tested. Six contained unacceptable levels of lead; five showed levels of copper that were too high, according to Town Council member Madge Strickland.
Strickland is head of a task force that will provide water customers information about lead and copper. Other task force members are Water System Director Billy Miles; Blaney Day Care Director Jerry Starling; County Council member A.T. “Hammy” Moak and Blaney Elementary School Principal Rose Sheheen.
The lead and copper come from pipes and solder in homes and are not in the water system as a whole.
Running the tap for 15 to 30 seconds before collecting drinking water can reduce exposure to lead. Metal typically leaches into water that has been standing in the pipes.
Elgin is considering changing its source of water because of another water-quality problem.
In July, the Elgin water system shut down one of its wells because of contaminants. The Watson Drive/Sawmill well showed slightly high levels of chemicals that are used as solvents, degreasers and fumigants.
The source of that contamination has not been found. But the chemicals typically get into groundwater supplies from improper use and disposal.
Elgin Mayor Pete James said the town is considering merging with Lugoff’s water system, which is supplied by surface water.
“In the long run, I think it’s going to be the most efficient way to bring water to our customers in Elgin,” James said.
Groundwater testing and monitoring are becoming more expensive as regulations tighten, James said. If problems are found, they’re also more expensive to correct.
“We have a number of wells, and if you have to treat each one of them it gets expensive,” James said.
Elgin water customers concerned about the problem can call Town Council member Madge Strickland or Water System Manager Billy Miles at 438-1736 or Ronny Rentz at DHEC’s Wateree Environmental Quality Control District at 432-3431, ext. 390, or 778-6548. Questions concerning health effects of the contaminant should be directed to Dr. Thomas Cox at DHEC’s Sumter County Health Department at 773-5511.