Only on KDKA, Aliquippa residents are fighting for a second opinion on their water, shipping off samples for independent lead testing.
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The first batch of test results just arrived in the mail and KDKA’s Meghan Schiller was there when some homeowners got answers.
On a rainy day last year in Aliquippa, Gerald Schill told KDKA that he feared the worst.
“Getting blood work done me and my life, getting tested for heavy metals,” said Schill.
Last fall, Schill learned his faucet pumped out water with unsafe lead levels.
“Optimal is zero and they say that I’m 48.4 PPB. That’s high,” he said.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller did some digging and learned his lead problem at the time was worse than he thought.
The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa said it made a decimal mistake on his water quality report. Instead of 48.4 parts per billion, his water sample’s lead level had read 484 parts per billion.
“This sample represents the worst-case sample from your home,” Schill read from his letter from the MWAA.
Schill said he thought it was time for a second opinion.
Community activist Megan Smith ordered hundreds of water test kits for people like Schill to send their water off for independent testing. The kits landed in the hands of Virginia Tech Ph.D. student Rebecca Kriss.
“The opportunity to test people’s drinking water is an amazing way to put science into action,” said Kriss.
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Kriss and her lab teammates want to help communities like Aliquippa “get the lead out.”
“So far, we had a total of six out of the 40 homes that we tested had concerning lead concentrations above five parts per billion,” said Kriss.
Schill is not one of the six. We watched as he opened his results.
Schill: The test, test results indicate that my water is now safe to consume.
Schiller: What’s your reaction, considering how your other tests have been?
Schill: It’s been a long time coming.
He thinks the MWAA’s decision to replace the lead service line at his curb, plus his replacement of all the pipes inside his home, dropped his water’s lead levels significantly.
“It’s a good thing. Very happy with the results,” Schill said.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Bill Smith went into this testing blind.
“This was the first time that my water has ever been tested in the 42 years that I’ve been here,” said Bill Smith.
His results arrived after a few weeks and he’s thankful for a free outside testing option.
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“It’s a relief to know that the water that we have here is safe because I’ve been drinking that water for 40 years,” said Bill Smith. “To think that it very possibly could have been contaminated with high levels of lead, it’s very disturbing.”