Lead high in water at more units

From Staff ReportsMay 24, 2006 

— Water tests uncovered four additional units at a sizable Durham apartment complex with elevated lead levels in their drinking water.

Health officials started testing at Penrith Townhomes after a child who recently moved from the complex was diagnosed with lead poisoning. Tainted water at Penrith is the only identified source of the poison.

The child is only the second in North Carolina thought to have developed lead poisoning from public drinking water. Results released Tuesday said four out of 10 units tested positive for elevated lead. Previous tests found five units with the same problem.

Health officials have said the problem might be isolated to Penrith.

It will take time to determine the extent of lead contamination. A state laboratory processing tests from Penrith can process only 10 results a day, Durham County health officials say. Tests also will be conducted at homes near the 332-unit rental complex, which was built in the 1980s.

Health workers Tuesday alerted families at Penrith, near Research Triangle Park, that children younger than age 6 are eligible for free lead tests. They stressed that any city resident living in homes built before 1988 should run their water until it turns cold before consuming it. Cold water is less likely to dissolve lead.

Federal law in 1988 required lead levels be reduced in plumbing solder, pipes and plumbing fixtures used in new construction.

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