CUNEYT DIL Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency ordered officials in Clarksburg, West Virginia to provide a clean source of drinking water or filters to remove lead from tap water after elevated levels of the toxin were found.
The EPA said conditions “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health” and directed the Clarksburg Water Board to submit a plan to resolve the issue by August 1.
The order, filed on Wednesday afternoon, comes more than two months after three cases of children with elevated blood lead levels were reported, according to the EPA. Water samples taken on May 7 at three households showed lead levels above an allowable limit set by the EPA.
Further testing of drinking water conducted in June turned up more samples with the toxic metal, which the EPA says is not safe at any level and can be particularly harmful to children.
The Clarksburg Water Board currently faces fines from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources after it failed to notify the public about the risk of lead exposure. The agency issued an order on July 2 but Clarksburg officials failed to send notices to households potentially served by lead service lines within three business days.
Lead lines were phased out in the 1950s, the agency said previously, and it’s unlikely homes built after 1960 would have them.
The Clarksburg Public Water System serves approximately 17,686 people and provides water to other public water systems that serve an additional 38,225 people.
Tim Stranko, an attorney for the Clarksburg Water Board, said Thursday the utility plans to comply with both orders from the EPA and state, The Exponent Telegram reported.
In a statement, the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council said a national review of lead service lines found West Virginia has about 20,000 lead pipes, and that they are widespread across other states.
“How many more communities must face a lead contamination crisis and poison their children before we get every lead pipe out of the ground across the nation?” Erik Olson, a senior director with the group, said in a statement. “Today it’s Clarksburg, West Virginia.”