By SAMMY FRETWELL
Lead has tainted drinking water in more than two dozen South Carolina communities during the past five years at levels that exceed a federal safety standard, according to data released Friday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Most of the utility systems with elevated lead levels were small ones near Columbia and Rock Hill, but DHEC also has found lead pollution in pockets of the Lowcountry and western South Carolina, records show. The State newspaper requested the information in response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., this year.
DHEC suspects elevated amounts of the toxic metal resulted from corrosive water washing lead from pipes that serve homes, although officials said this week they will launch a special study to learn more.
“We just want to try and determine what the factors are that may be leading to some of these small, rural systems having exceedences” of federal standards for lead, DHEC water official David Baize said in an interview with The State.
The department said people should not be unduly alarmed because homeowners can take simple steps to avoid lead exposure. Letting cold water run for about 30 seconds before drinking or cooking with it should flush out most lead from lead and copper pipes, Baize said.