Your Water Is Safe! Why Flint, MI Situation Won’t Happen Here

The ongoing news coverage of the public water crisis in Flint, Michigan has understandably raised concerns everywhere about water safety.  Northshore Utility District (NUD) has been watching the situation closely.

For those concerned, we want to first assure you that our water, tested daily, is safe to drink.  Flint’s water crisis was caused both by different conditions as well as testing processes.  This article shares four main reasons why we are safeguarded from the same lead hazards.

1. No lead in our lines

First, it is important to note that lead does not come from the water source. Lead is leached into the water system from plumbing materials and fixtures constructed with certain metals—most commonly, lead solder used in copper plumbing systems.

Seattle banned use of lead solder in 1980; the plumbing code followed suit in 1985. But older systems like Flint’s contains more of the old pipe materials containing lead. Northshore Utility District uses newer high-grade plastic service lines and has replaced nearly all older galvanized lines with plastic.  We estimate that only a very small fraction of our existing water service lines – as few as 200 out of the 22,000 – are not plastic.

Additionally, a few years ago the District exchanged all of its water meters with “no lead” compliant water meters—a decision made well before the legislative mandate. Our entire distribution system, tested frequently for water safety, contains virtually no lead.

2. At-risk areas surveyed regularly for lead levels

Some homes built or re-plumbed with copper plumbing before 1980 may be at risk.  As part of their daily water testing, Seattle Public Utilities and NUD obtain data from a sample collected from at-risk homes every three years (see data from 2015 Water Quality Report).  The last survey in 2014 showed no lead levels in at-risk homes were above EPA limits.

If your home was built or re-plumbed with copper plumbing before 1985, it is ultimately your decision as a homeowner whether or not to replace the older pipes that may contain lead solder.  If you have concerns, you can contact NUD’s Water Quality Office to be added to our test sampling.  You can also hire an outside test company to test the water coming through your fixtures.

3. Our water treatment prevents pipe corrosion

Flint’s water source has a naturally acidic pH. Acidic water will corrode pipes faster, allowing pipe lead to leach into the drinking water. Our water source from the Tolt Reservoir is naturally neutral on the pH scale.

But more importantly, unlike Flint, our water is treated at the source before it enters the pipe systems. In a recent King 5 news interview, SPU water quality official Wylie Harper described the treatment process as “optimiz[ing] the chemistry, so it’s as least aggressive or least corrosive as possible on [the older] plumbing materials.” Flint employed no source water treatment to balance its source water acidity to reduce the chances of pipe corrosion.

4. We test daily for your safety

Finally, unlike Flint’s flawed testing processes, your water is regularly tested to ensure it remains safe.  In accordance with Department of Health requirements, we continually inform you of the condition of your drinking water through both your annual Water Quality Report, and regular notices for unusual issues.

Lead test samples taken every three years from at-risk homes in our area have continued to show lead amounts below the Environmental Protection Agency action levels of 15 parts per billion.

Delivering your family clean, safe water is our #1 priority.  If you have ongoing concerns about your water or would like more information on how it is treated, please contact our Water Quality Office at (425) 398-4419 or

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