Tacoma residents express concern over lead in drinking water: 'I'm worried about my health'

TACOMA -- As Tacoma Water continues to test homes and schools for excessive lead levels, residents expressed their concern over the safety of the city's drinking water at a Tacoma Public Utilities board meeting Wednesday night.

"I've always been proud to say I drink the water, which I have been drinking the water for 17 years right out of the tap," resident Judy Chelotti told the board. But now, she said, "I'm worried about my health, I'm worried about my pets. I think I just want to be reassured that I have good drinking water."

Tacoma Water found higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in four homes near the Lincoln District last week and they believe old lead gooseneck pipes between the mains and the water meters are the cause. Since then, high levels of lead after been found in six Tacoma public schools.

"The commitment of the utility is to find them (lead gooseneck pipes) and remove them all ... we're looking for ways to do it effectively and collecting information that their water is safe," said Tacoma Water Deputy Superintendent Chris McMeen.

He said the utility is aggressively trying to reach 1,700 customers who may have the lead gooseneck pipes, but have only heard back from about 10 percent of them. He also said that testing will begin at 10 more homes, but Chelotti's isn't one of them.

"I pay like a thousand dollars in fees," Chelotti told the board. "I'd like to have my water tested."

Tacoma Water says it's too difficult to say how long it will take to remove all the lead gooseneck pipes from the system.