Northeast Fresno residents worried after tests show high levels of lead in water

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Residents of a Northeast Fresno neighborhood are worried after tests revealed high levels of lead in their water. The city believes the problem is sub-standard pipes. But residents wonder if it's the city's water that is causing the problem.

Residents of this neighborhood near the Ft. Washington Country Club have been frustrated because they often get rusty colored water out of their faucets. Friday, the water ran clear, but test results from the city have determined high levels of lead in the water. Karen Micheli is concerned.

"We do have young grandchildren so I'm concerned a little bit that, okay, were they drinking lead while they were here. I don't know."

The city of Fresno's test have detected lead levels nearly eight times the safe level in some faucets in Karen's house. The city said the water coming into the house is clean, and blames the inside plumbing. Something Karen doesn't dispute.

"Oh, it's coming from the galvanized pipe, there's no question that the lead is coming from the galvanized pipe. The question is to me is why?"

So far the city has tested 110 homes and found that 27 had high levels of lead coming out of their faucets. City water director Thomas Esqueda believes developers used substandard pipes, not properly lined with zinc, and they are now corroding and releasing lead into the plumbing. So far the city has tested pipes from three homes.

"That pipe tested below standard zinc coating, I can tell you for those three pipes, they didn't meet the standard. Now can I apply that universally, no, I can't-- but I am three for three for the pipe samples given me," said Esqueda.

But, the homes built by different developers are spread throughout Northeast Fresno in an area bounded by Copper on the north, highway 41 on the west, Willow Avenue on the east, and Alluvial to the south. The same area served by the surface water treatment plant.

"The question is what is causing the corrosion to the galvanized pipe to release the lead into our drinking water," said Micheli.

Esqueda said the city uses an anti-corrosive substance in its water, as required by the EPA.

One big question is how many homes are affected. If it's the pipes, were building codes violated? There are 15,000 potentially affected homes in the area. Only 110 have been tested, and a quarter of those had lead in the water.

Concerned residents can contact the city public utilities department.
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