Letters to the Editor

Important Information About Lead In Your Drinking Water

Dear Editor,

I understand that there may be questions or concerns about lead in your drinking water.  I am writing to you to let you know that at your Department of Public Works, one of our primary goals is to provide safe, clean water to all of our residents and businesses. Winthrop’s water is supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which was created in 1985. Our water comes from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs many miles west of Boston. These reservoirs supply water to 51 communities providing a combined 200 million gallons a day of high quality water. 

MWRA water is monitored by a state-of-the-art system, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure it stays free of contaminants. Licensed treatment operators treat drinking water according to strict state and federal regulations. Treatments include ozonation, ultraviolet light, chlorine, fluoride, sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. These treatments provide primary, secondary and residual disinfectants, corrosion control, and promote dental health. Annual and monthly test results are posted on www.mwra.com. The MWRA also tests over 1,600 water samples per month, before reaching household taps. As part of the MWRA distribution system, the Town of Winthrop is required to do monitoring under the US EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.

During our most recent sampling round, The Winthrop Water Division / PWS ID #334600 found high levels of lead in drinking water in some homes.  Lead can cause serious health problems.  For more information please call or visit the Winthrop Water Department at (617) 846-1341, 100 Kennedy Drive, Winthrop MA 02152.

Although most homes in Winthrop have very low levels of lead in their drinking water, some homes do exhibit lead levels above the EPA Action Level of 15 parts per billion.  To monitor lead levels, each year the Water Department tests tap water in at least 15 homes that have full lead service lines. While properly treated water provided by MWRA limits the dangers of lead pipes, lead service lines and lead solder used in old plumbing and certain brass fixtures, still remaining in homes, can increase the risk of exposure to lead through drinking water.  Corrosion, or wearing away, of lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, especially if water sits for a long time in the pipes before it is used.

Elevated levels of lead can impact normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, cause deficits in the attention span, hearing and learning abilities of children and increase blood pressure in adults. For more information, please read through the enclosed brochure entitled “Important Information About Lead and Drinking Water.” 

Our most recent monitoring for lead indicated that two of the 15 homes that we tested this year had lead levels above the EPA Action Level of 15 parts per billion. It is important to note that the Water Department is targeting tier 1 sites, which are homes and businesses with known lead service lines or aged plumbing that would be most susceptible to higher lead levels.  The DPW is committed to working with homeowners in Winthrop to have lead service lines replaced and thus reduce the risk of lead exposure in homes that have such lines.  The Town of Winthrop has applied for and received a 0 percent MWRA Loan to remove and replace lead lines in approximately 80 homes and businesses with full lead service lines (identified by historical record) in our distribution system in calendar year 2019 as part of a water main replacement project named CBD Revitalization.  The Winthrop Water Department remains committed to this initiative and hopes to remove all remaining lead service lines, approximately 700, by calendar year 2029.

There are also steps that homeowners can take to reduce lead exposure related to tap water.  They include:

• Most importantly – Flush the tap until after the water feels cold before use. The flushing   of your tap ensures the best quality water.

• Never use  hot water from the faucet for drinking or cooking, especially when making baby formula.

• Never boil water to remove lead. Boiling water for an extended time may make the lead more concentrated.

• Check your plumbing to make sure it is not adding lead to your water.

I again want to assure you that the Department of Public Works and the Town Manager are fully committed to eliminating this problem by replacing all of these lead lines with copper.  Our ultimate goal is to eliminate lead from all privately owned water service lines, which will greatly minimize the presence of lead and therefore the risk of lead exposure via drinking water in our homes.  If you have any questions or if you are in need of any additional information, please visit our website at www.town.winthrop.ma.us, or call the Winthrop Water Department at (617) 846-1341.


Steven R. Calla

Director of Public Works / Water Superintendent

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