Lead problem solved at Idaho ski resort

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The water crisis in Flint, MI, several years ago led water systems in many parts of the U.S. to test their water for lead contamination. One such test turned up a lead problem at Tamarack Resort, a half-built ski-resort community 95 miles north of Boise, ID.

Tamarack Resort began construction in 2003 and opened in 2004, but it became a Great Recession casualty in 2008, leaving a small group of homeowners to struggle with a half-built resort and a mountain of debt. More recently, the Idaho Statesman reported that new owners are acquiring Tamarack Resort on November 30, 2018, and plan to complete the project within the next two years.

In Flint, a state-appointed manager ordered the city to change its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less costly but more corrosive Flint River. After the changeover in 2014, inadequate treatment caused lead to leach from the city’s pipes into its drinking water, exposing more than 100,000 residents to high levels of the dangerous metal. Scientific studies confirmed lead contamination in the water, prompting a federal state of emergency in January of 2016.

The Flint situation attracted nationwide attention, prompting many suppliers and recipients of drinking water to test for contamination. One target of such testing is schools. Symptoms of lead poisoning are especially pronounced in children because their bones are still growing. These symptoms include developmental problems such as impaired growth; a lower IQ; heart and kidney problems; and anxiety, depression, and other mental-health issues.

In Idaho, Jerri Henry of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking-water program reacted to the Flint situation by asking all of Idaho’s 900 water utilities to verify by July of 2016 that they were lead-safe.

Idaho Statesman writer Rocky Barker reported that three of the utilities did have lead problems. Among them was the Tamarack Resort system, “which has 350 connections but just a sporadic seasonal population. Its violation comes from its large size and low use, which leaves water sitting in the system’s pipes, Henry said. Because the resort is new, it has modern and compliant water pipes. The lead is coming from soldered joints.

“The resort went through the two six-month water-monitoring periods and still was in violation, so it hired an engineering firm that recommended it add soda ash in filtration to raise the water’s pH and reduce its corrosiveness. Properly treated, the water won’t leach the lead from the solder.”

Risk & Insurance magazine recently reported on a pending class-action lawsuit in Pennsylvania arising from excessive lead levels in an elementary school’s water supply. The magazine considered possible litigation targets for such a situation, including the school district, the water supplier, the municipality, and contractors or plumbers working on the pipes.