Under the Microscope: Meggan Gray tests South Mississippi's water
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even low levels of exposure to lead can be harmful, especially for children.
But under the Safe Drinking Water Act, all states and municipalities are required to test water supplies to ensure it is safe for everyone to use.
Gautier resident Kathy Sanders admits, "Pretty much the only thing I do is brush my teeth and take a shower with it."
Like Sanders, many residents choose to only drink bottled water. Considering how often residents use it - to make a pot of coffee, wash dishes, or cook - maybe it is a good idea to know exactly what is coming out of their faucets.
In Sanders' case, it's brown water that's coming out of her faucets.
"Actually, it's not as brown as it used to be since they've done all these upgrades. Back years ago, it was really brown and smelled bad when you brushed your teeth. The quality is a little better now," Sanders said. "It doesn't smell as bad now, but I'm so in the mindset of bottled water that I even cook with it, too."
Madge Colegrove's home is hooked up to Gulfport water. She prefers using a water filter before drinking from the faucet because she believes there's something a bit 'off' about it. Colegrove first noticed while taking a bath one day.
"And when I got in and ran my foot along the side of the tub for a second, just this awful gray matter appeared," says Colegrove. "I was like, 'What was that from?' I knew it wasn't from the tub being dirty, because I'm a neat freak, so I just kinda knew something was up."
So, WLOX News Now put Colegrove's water to the test; along with Sanders' 'brown' water from Gautier and four other samples from Moss Point, Perkinston, Diamondhead, and Biloxi.
All six samples were taken to Micro Methods Laboratory in Jackson County; one of only two labs in the state certified by the health department to test drinking water. Each sample was tested for two things - copper and lead. Lead is undetected; and can't be seen, tasted, or smelled The only way you know it's present is by testing.
"Anytime we do have hits of elevated lead quantities, it's normally not the source water, not the city water coming to your home. It's the older homes like mine in Pascagoula with the copper tubing, and to connect the copper tubing they used a lead solder," said Harry Howell, President of Micro Methods.
One of the six samples WLOX News Now collected was from a 100 year old home on Seal Avenue in Biloxi.
The results - all clear. Everything tested was well below the EPA's maximum allowable level for lead and copper. In some cases, the lead wasn't even enough to detect.
"That's good, that's good, other than the water's brown," said Sanders.
According to experts, the water is perfectly safe.
"Down here I've always said our water has a little character to it. It has tannins, which is a very organic matter. I compare it to decaying leaves. If you have decaying leaves and water flows through the leaves, the water coming out of the leaves will be a little bit brown," said Howell.
As for Madge Colegrove's home in Gulfport and the sediment she found in her water, she says it has since cleared up. Gulfport officials say sediment can build up in lines, and flushing out the hot water heater can usually take care of it.
Residents who live in an older home and have concerns about possible lead contamination from your pipes, can call the health department or Micro Methods Laboratory to have it tested.
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