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Lead Contamination in Drinking Water and Associated Housing Characteristics in the Mississippi Delta
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2019 Authors: Willett K.L., Otts S.S., Woo L., Fratesi M.A., Haggard R., Janasie C., Thornton C., Rhymes J.
This project aimed to create an atmosphere of community and inclusion in order to inform and influence a major public health issue, namely lead contamination of drinking water. Community-based participatory research enabled an assessment of residential drinking water supplies in the Mississippi Delta. We partnered with multiple community organizations to test lead concentrations in drinking water and survey residents about their housing characteristics. Through variously styled community events, drinking water from 215 homes in Mississippi were analyzed for pH and lead concentrations, representing a 74% bottle return rate. The highest concentrations were associated with a targeted private well owner event. Detectable lead concentrations were found in 61% (n = 122) of samples ranging from 0.06 to 14.3 ppb. Of the 122 samples with detectable lead, 9 exceeded 5 ppb. Participants from these homes were provided a certified sink filter. The pH of the waters ranged from 5.84 to 9.13. Five of the nine samples with lead concentrations > 5 ppb had pH < 7 suggesting a correlation between acidic water leaching lead from pipes. Letters were sent to each participant notifying them of their water results. Demographic data collected from the participants were correlated with U.S. Census tract data, which allowed us to determine at-risk areas. Outcomes of this research include a system for determining the best community engagement methods for collecting samples and the best methods for identifying at-risk areas. By involving members of the community in the project, we spread awareness and provoked action in order to minimize lead exposure. Ultimately, this project has helped safeguard public health because survey and sampling results contributed to assessment of the risks of lead contamination in Mississippi and guided scalable research and outreach efforts to minimize lead exposure through use of filters and/or behavioral changes. Supported by USGS-MSWRRI.