A few people have asked me lately about "Free Water Test" offers like shown, that they have seen displayed on racks near the check out areas of some large stores.
What are they?
Basically, they are kits which allow one to send in a tiny sample of tap water, using a postage paid envelope, which is then received by a business which sells water treatment systems for the home.
These free offers are promotional tools which businesses use to introduce themselves and make an appointment to visit a homeowner. In addition to a receiving a water sample, they will also have received a completed survey about whether one lives in a house, condo or apartment and whether the home uses water filters. More subjectively, the survey also asks about water concerns one may have including chlorine smells, staining, smells, scaly deposits on faucets, hard water and cloudiness.
However, please be aware that from a health sense, the water sample sent in the tiny vial is much too small for identifying the level of health risks, including that for lead or other dangerous substances, which are standards mainly set by government. This means that health concerns and recommendations about drinking water safety would be better addressed by a certified water testing lab and/or a government health department. In all likelihood, the "Free Water Test" as advertised, is a free phone call or email from a salesperson pitching a whole house water treatment system costing $1,000's of dollars, a service which one may, or may not need.
From reviews and comments one may read on the Internet, it's easy to see that water treatment for the home is big business and a necessary service for some households. However, it's up to the individual to be informed about what is a convenience versus a necessity for filtering or treating water in their home.
In Communities Across America, lead pipe was once the choice hardware for serving homes with drinking water. It connected them to public and private utility water mains often under a street. As a material, lead pipe was flexible, and by itself or in combination with galvanized steel pipe, it made for easier underground installation, navigating twists and turns under streets, sidewalks, lawns and home foundations. It was promoted by industry groups at the turn of the century and commonly used to the 50’s until eventually banned by Congress.
Lead pipe has emerged as a hidden health risk, not like the visible flaking of paint associated with lead poisoning. So its use underground, concealed and corroding, is now a parallel to the environmental problem of leaking underground fuel storage tanks.
As an example, these dissected Red Bank, New Jersey century-old documents of a former home show a permit for and installation of a water service line using galvanized steel pipe and a short lead “bend” connector. However, homes like this one with a partial or entirely lead service line installed, are still numerous today. To react, water utilities add chemicals to tap water to keep the lead from dissolving into the water flowing through, but often with mixed results.
One alternative to water service lines treated for lead, is the expensive replacement of them, with typical costs of $3,000 to $6,000. But who pays? Depending on the location, the responsibility varies from utility to homeowner, and a related town ordinance may not always be enforced evenly or consistently.
A lower cost alternative is installing a water filter at the tap, and there are many choices. Some filters may remove only lead, and others will remove all substances, rendering the water tasteless to some people.
As water utilities may follow only the minimum legal requirements for the testing of tap water, it’s important for everyone to be aware of their health risk, especially expectant mothers and young children. One may start by asking their water provider to test their home for free, or have it done themselves at your own cost, to know where one stands in this emerging national problem.
Enhanced Testing Program Developed By US Expert Is Offered by Top University.
January 18, 2019
The NJDEP recently acknowledged that Red Bank Borough’s tap water testing for lead was “deficient” with “smoking gun” evidence, but it has yet to divulge any action it has taken to enforce the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In addition, the borough has recently denied access to email communication it has with the NJDEP, such public access records that would bring transparency on an important public heath concern, lead in drinking water.
POP Founder, Alberto Larotonda, who filed the enforcement complaint, views the ongoing lack of government openness at the expense of infants, young children and expectant mothers, who represent the highest risk people susceptible to lead poisoning. It also hides a pattern of unbalanced testing between economically depressed and affluent areas of Red Bank as environmental injustice.
Through an unofficial source, POP has learned that the Red Bank Water Department will add many new residential testing sites to its water sampling plan. However, under federal law, the sampling must include no less than 60 single family building sites for its population of roughly 12,000, leaving residents living in multifamily buildings, condos and apartments in the dark. The testing goal is to show if water treatment is preventing water service lines and home plumbing from dissolving lead into tap water. However, the results vary from home to home, and the department has yet to inform the public of why, how and when it will select new sites.
In a proactive approach, Larotonda has consulted Professor Marc Edwards, a national expert on drinking water and a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech. Edwards has direct experience in the Flint, Michigan water crisis and has made labs at the university available to an alliance of citizen groups and non-profit organizations with a testing method developed that is more thorough than that required under the federal safe drinking water law.
For interested households that were not selected for lead testing by their municipal or private water company, one alliance non-profit offers a do-it-yourself sampling kit for lead and other contaminants which is then processed through the Virginia Tech labs. The organization “Healthy Babies, Bright Futures”, (HBBF.org) addresses the risks of the youngest to lead, but its testing program applies to any home at only half the cost ($60) of commercial labs, or even on a “pay what you can afford” basis. A brochure can be found Here
Aside from the minimal testing performed by the Red Bank Water Department, or an individual -paid program, POP demands Red Bank Borough to seek grant funding so that any qualified home can have lead testing to take action on safer drinking water by using the above program made possible by Virginia Tech University. POP may also organize the public educational efforts required if such grants are obtained.
Red Bank POP continues to demand government transparency and welcomes solution-minded people and organizations to join its efforts at RedBankPOP.org.
Healthy Babies, Bright Futures Lead in Water Sampling Kit
A used delivery or cargo-style van is requested as a donation to help Red Bank POP expand its outdoor public "Free Market" events this year. Last fall, two successful free markets were held in Red Bank. A Free Market is a community building event, where no money exchanges hands for goods given or received, and generally all items are of good, usable quality, not "junk"
Enthusiastic neighborhood and drive-by participants were eager to bring and donate excess things or "stuff" just taking up space in their home, and then find items at the free market they needed for free.
A donated van can be in running or non-running repairable condition, which would be used by POP to pick up, deliver, provide temporary storage for free market items and also bring the free market to other locations in the greater Red Bank area. Requests for transporting items such as furniture and other bulk items, were made last year, some of them by senior citizens.
The Free Market idea expands on the "gift economy" which is the recognized social practice of freely giving and receiving between oneself and family & friends, volunteering, donating food for others, and many forms community activities.
RedBankPOP.org envisions that interactive events like the Free Market, are key to building neighborhoods where people meet, know and help each other. In today's tech-oriented society we are often deprived of quality social time, while also accumulating possessions that we don't know where to store or when they will be used again. The Free Market helps solve that problem. POP invites civic minded people to contact us with positive ideas that better everyone's lifestyle.
While Placing Public Safety At Risk, Representing A Chasm Of Environmental Injustice
Red Bank, NJ – November 27, 2018
A New Jersey Department of Environmental (NJDEP) protection official says he was presented with “smoking gun” evidence that Red Bank's water system was not being tested for lead contamination in compliance with federal law.
NJDEP Water Enforcement Chief, Raimund Belonzi, was presented with the evidence by Alberto Larotonda, a Red Bank resident and former NJDEP inspector who believes that gross errors in Red Bank's testing methods put town residents at risk of lead poisoning, and overwhelmingly in lower income neighborhoods.
Test results disclosed by the town to the NJDEP and also at a local lead poisoning presentation by Red Bank's environmental commission also mislead the public, according to Larotonda. The evidence included photo documentation, water department service records, and public statements of the Red Bank Water Department, that show the town's methodology is not in compliance with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The claimed violations include the non-reporting of lead materials existing in water service connections to homes and the misrepresentation of commercial buildings as residential homes, resulting in the collection of less than 40% of the 60 minimum samples required for the borough of over 12,000 residents. Larotonda pointed out that the most recent, and prior years approved water testing plans should be invalidated as a result.
The town's testing method was also found to be overwhelmingly skewed towards more affluent neighborhoods historically known as the town's “east side.” Of 23 samples taken from homes, 21 came from the east side. The remaining two came from the more economically depressed “west side”, representing a clear imbalance of environmental protection and justice.
Alberto Larotonda is the founder of a local residents group, Red Bank POP, or “People Over Politics.” He was accompanied by recent candidates for mayor and council, Pearl Lee and Suzanne Viscomi, who met with NJDEP Director Patricia Gardner and Chief of Water Enforcement, Raimund Belonzi in Trenton. The officials had acknowledged earlier that a current lead testing plan required by Red Bank under Federal Law and submitted to them for approval, was “deficient”.
There was some confusion at the meeting over the purpose of signatures of Red Bank Water Department officials in the town's water test plan, as well. The signatures follow a statement of “I have verified and certify,” in the plan, but a NJDEP official at the meeting claimed the signatures could not be considered certifications until after the NJDEP approved the plan. Larotonda believes the signed statements are of questionable value, and only “pseudo-certifications”.
Larotonda says the violations he has uncovered are the result of negligent, rubber-stamp town bureaucracy. He and others demand complete disclosure to all residents of any violations found by the NJDEP in water quality information prepared for the public, as well as a redesigned water testing plan that gives accurate results and equal health protection regardless of economic status.
Red Bank POP intends to work with the NJDEP and the state entities to ensure that the best interests of residents are catered to... and not local politics.
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