You can’t see it. You can’t taste it. But the impact of lead in drinking water can be devastating.
“Lead is a hidden contaminant,” says Madison Water Utility water quality manager Joe Grande. “There’s a growing concern in the water industry … that we’ve been talking about lead for two decades now, and little has happened from a lot of people’s perspective.”
The problem of lead in drinking water stretches back more than a century, when America’s cities were booming and utilities were busily connecting homes to newly-built municipal water systems. Before the mid-twentieth century, the pipes used to connect homes to water mains were almost always made of lead (Madison ended the practice in 1928). Today, those old water pipes are known as lead services, and they remain in use in just about every major city. Every city, that is, except Madison.