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Areas in Johnson County show elevated lead levels

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Officials recently discovered elevated lead levels in some locations served by the Brownlow Utility District while testing drinking water quality. Lead is a dangerous heavy metal that can cause brain and kidney damage along with interfering with red blood cells that carry oxygen. According to the Mayo Clinic, lead poisoning is usually related to prolonged exposure of months or years.

“Brownlow Utility District is concerned about the health of our residents because lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources, especially for pregnant women and children 6 years and younger,” a Brownlow Utility representative told the public.

Lead poisoning can cause a wide variety of symptoms in all ages. Children commonly have developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss, seizures, and pica. Adults most commonly suffer high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, mood disorders, reduced or abnormal sperm, and extreme pregnancies complications including miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature birth.

According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Brownlow Utility District waters comes from Stone Mountain Well, which comes from Watauga lake. This well serves 599 people according to the Division of Water Resources 2020 Legislative Report. However, lead is rare in water sources. According to Brownlow Utility experts, contaminants usually originate from corroded plumbing.

Corroded plumbing is relatively common in older homes. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have brass faucets, fittings, valves, and lead solder. Guidelines are still evolving as more information comes to light. Houses built as recent as January 4, 2014, were allowed to have 7.75 percent more lead than current guidelines.

Brownlow Utility District is working with the Tennessee Division of Water Resources for assistance and advice on how to move forward. Contact 423-727-1393 to find out how to have your water tested.