Tacoma businesses, homeowners growing concerned after lead found in water

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TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma Water is continuing to collect water samples after finding unexpected high levels of lead in pipes leading to four homes.

The homes are located just south of Lincoln High School in Tacoma.

But the utility estimates there are up to 1,700 lead gooseneck pipes in the city, which is believed to be the culprit of the lead contaminants.

At Uncle Thurm's restaurant in Tacoma, owner Thurmond Brokenbrough's mind isn't just on his famous soul food but the fact lead has been found in the water nearby.

His restaurant lies in the zones where Tacoma Water has identified 1,700 lead gooseneck pipes.  Those pipes connect the water main to water meters outside homes.

"The results we got were surprising and that's why we're responding the way we are," said Chris McMeen, Tacoma Water's deputy superintendent.

-- Health officials say low levels of lead poisoning often don’t have symptoms, but children 6 years old and younger are the most susceptible.

-- A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead can have impacts on the developing baby.

-- Low amounts detected in children’s blood are associated with behavioral problems and decreased intelligence.

"I think when we don't know about what we can be exposed to, that can be something that can cause fear for folks," said Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health Department's spokesperson Edie Jeffers.

Tacoma homeowner Kerri Pulley said as a grandmother, she will be watching the water even more closely for the sake of her grandchild.

"I don't want to be one of the people that puts my trust in the system and find out too late that it's causing a problem," said Pulley.

Uncle Thurm said he will be watching closely, too, because he says his livelihood depends on it.

"It's very important; it's the lifeline," said Brokenbrough. "You know we sanitize our hands, you wash your dishes, you cook your food, it's extremely important. You can't survive without the use of water."

Tacoma Water said the job now is to find all of the lead gooseneck pipes and remove them. They estimate 30,000 of them have already been removed over the past 30 years. Tacoma Water asked for residents to be patient while they continue their testing.

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