Information Sheet: Drinking Water Sampling at U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach

[Update 20161117, 11:29 a.m.: Edited for clarity. New portions (in italics) include:

  • Results of Public Health Command triennial test in “Situation”
  • New instructions about sample bottle distribution in “Re-testing”
  • New information about laboratory testing procedures in “Re-testing”
  • Corrected information on home-based sampling procedures in “How to perform the water sampling”
  • New information in “Timeline on return of new results”
  • Corrected information in “If new test results indicate higher than acceptable levels of lead”
  • Further information on test results for unoccupied housing in “If new test results indicate higher than acceptable levels of lead”
  • Further information on Army water sampling methods in “Safety of water from potable water tanks”

Sections have been arranged for organizational clarity as well.]

Situation:
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach performed tests in August and September 2016 to determine whether water consumed by children 6 and younger and pregnant women in the garrison was safe to drink, specifically testing for lead contamination. Samples, which were taken only in unoccupied housing units at Katterbach and Bleidorn kasernes so as not to disturb residents, indicated higher than acceptable levels of lead at the point of deliver (the faucet).
It is notable that within the operations order there was no differentiation made between sampling methods for occupied and unoccupied housing and no recommendation to sample occupied or unoccupied housing.
Within unoccupied buildings, water is left in the pipes, and pollutants are likelier to leach into and build up in the sitting water. Without flushing out the pipes, which is unnecessary in continuously occupied housing, the water in an unoccupied building is likely to skew high in its lead readings.
Despite the likelihood that the higher than acceptable levels of lead in the water were the result of methodology rather than actual contamination, the garrison takes its Families’ health and safety as its number one priority.
Therefore the garrison is providing water to those Families and individuals in a high-risk category for lead contamination, and they are performing tests of potentially affected occupied residences to get results as quickly as possible to assure the safety of the drinking water.
In the meantime, Public Health Command conducted triennial testing of 36 points here across USAG Ansbach. All housing units the Public Health Command tested had at least one point tested for lead and copper; only one sample showed very slightly elevated level above the Army measure.

Background:
As part of an operations order from the Army Installation Management Command, garrisons throughout the world began sampling the drinking water of government-owned Army Family Housing units. Garrisons would sample drinking water from all high-risk facilities (those facilities that provide drinking water to children 6 and younger and pregnant women) and from 20 percent of government-owned Army Family Housing. They would then provide those samples to the U.S. Army Public Health Command. This sampling was set to be achieved no later than Sept. 30, 2016.
Once USAPHC analyzes the samples, they return the results to the garrisons. If the results exceed the lead action level, the garrison is to take the water issue point out of service until mitigation methods are implemented.

High-risk groups:
Those at greater risk of lead contamination include children ages 6 and younger and expectant mothers. The barrier between the blood and the brain in children younger than 6 is not fully developed, which puts them at greater risk to lead exposure.

Effects of lead exposure:
Exposure to lead, even at low levels, may cause developmental issues in children 6 and younger. Lead is found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, certain foods, certain types of pottery porcelain and pewter, and water. The primary source of lead exposure for most children is generally considered to be lead-based paint in older homes, but since exposure can also occur through drinking water the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that schools and day care facilities test their drinking water for lead. If lead is found at any water outlet at levels above 20 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA recommends taking action to reduce the lead. However, based on recent research that identified drinking water as an increasing contributor of lead exposure and more strongly links elevated water lead levels to increased blood lead levels, the Army will use a more stringent criteria of 15 ppb for water outlets. The 15 ppb criteria is also consistent with the EPA Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) action level for lead of 15 ppb (in no more than 10 percent of LCR samples).

Obtaining water:
Immediately after the garrison learned of the test results, coordination efforts were made to provide water to affected community members. A distribution point was provided Nov. 10 at the Katterbach Kaserne fire station, a location that is open 24/7. Furthermore, 12th CAB provided three potable water tanks – also called “water buffalos” – to potentially affected housing areas.

Re-testing:
Following the elevated test results from unoccupied housing, USAG Ansbach is conducting follow-on testing of occupied housing to ensure the safety of drinking water, especially concerning community members in the high-risk category.
Both building coordinators and residents can obtain water testing kits from the following location:
USAG Ansbach and 12th CAB have taken further action and have distributed the sample bottles with detailed instructions to Army Family Housing doorsteps across both Bleidorn and Katterbach kasernes.
If residents are able to take the samples by Friday, Nov. 18, those same representatives will return Friday, Nov. 18 to pick up the bottles and deliver them to DPW.
If you cannot complete the testing in this time period, please deliver the samples to:

Housing Office at Bismarck Kaserne
Room 9
7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
09802-83-3422 or DSN 467-3422

To expedite testing, the Directorate of Public Works staff drove to the testing facility at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and picked up sample bottles. Once they have obtained the collected water samples, they will drive those samples to a commercial German laboratory, the staff of which has promised to complete the testing in seven (7) days.

How to perform the water sampling:
Testers must first pick up testing bottles and the instruction forms from the housing office. For the test they will also need a timer (typically available on most cellphones).
Tests for lead are performed with three sample containers. In occupied housing, residents should let water sit for eight hours (achieved most easily by waiting overnight and collecting samples first thing in the morning). The three bottles are then filled from the kitchen sink with the water on cold. After nearly filling the first sample immediately upon turning it on, the tester must keep the water running and then wait 30 seconds, and nearly fill up the second bottle. With the water still running, the tester must wait two minutes after the second bottle and then nearly fill up the third. These samples must reach the laboratory within 10 days.
The tester will return the bottles with the form to Room 9 of the Housing Office at Bismarck Kaserne.

Timeline on return of new results:
Although the laboratory procedures are out of USAG Ansbach’s control, the garrison hopes by driving the samples there directly to expedite the process and receive results within seven (7) to 14 days. DPW has been advised that Landstuhl is experiencing higher than normal volume and may require as long as 30 days.

If new test results indicate higher than acceptable levels of lead:
If the new test results show that the water contains higher than acceptable levels of lead, the point of delivery that was tested will be put out of service. DPW then investigates what the source of the contaminant is and conducts additional, comprehensive testing. Based on the results, putting something “out of service” may be as simple as replacing the faucet.
In the three-sample test, the results can indicate the source of the contaminant. If the first result comes back positive, but the following samples come back negative for lead, it indicates that the contaminant is coming most likely from the faucet issuing the water. Unoccupied housing resulted in about 49 percent with high first tests and then 5 percent or less for the follow-on testing. Nevertheless, it must be noted that conducting these tests on buildings that have been unoccupied for, on average, 12 months and were not adequately flushed, means that typical assumptions may not apply. These units will be properly flushed and retested prior to any Families being placed in the units.

Other sampling at USAG Ansbach:
Water sampling to test for lead levels occurs regularly at USAG Ansbach. Previous lead testing, conducted garrison-wide in 2013, revealed no elevated lead levels whatsoever. A second garrison-wide test conducted in September this year also revealed no levels above the EPA guidelines.
Regular ongoing testing is in accordance with host-nation-specific environmental compliance requirements and a combination of U.S. federal and Department of Defense standards to ensure the safety of all community members.

Effectiveness of on-the-market water purifiers:
Water filters available off-post at home improvement stores will remove lead contaminants. For further guidance, call environmental protection at the Directorate of Public Works at 09802-83-2158 or DSN 467-2158 or 09802-83-3422 or DSN 467-3422.

Safety of water from potable water tanks:
The potable water tanks had been certified last week, and the water in the tanks comes directly from the garrison’s treatment facility. In accordance with Army regulations, this water must be sampled daily.

Effect of lead on animals:
Signs of lead intoxication in animals can be subtle and non-specific, but pet owners may pick up on odd symptoms that warrant further investigation by a veterinarian. Signs of lead intoxication in dogs can include anorexia (not eating at all), vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anxiety or restlessness, blindness, convulsions, hysterical barking, and even aggression. Cats can exhibit anorexia, vomiting, and possibly seizures. Pet birds can exhibit several similar symptoms as well.
USAG Ansbach’s Veterinary Treatment Facility can help address these concerns with a physical exam and simple blood testing. If you’re concerned your pet may be showing these or any other symptoms, please call them at 09802-83-3179 or DSN 467-3179. You can also email usarmy.ansbach.vtf@mail.mil or message them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnsbachVTF.

Town hall:
USAG Ansbach conducted a town hall to discuss the higher than acceptable levels of lead in the drinking water test with concerned community members. To read the full story and the questions and answers that followed the town hall, visit https://ansbachhometownherald.com/water-town-hall-q-a-20161115.

Further resources:
Further questions about water testing can be addressed to the Directorate of Public Works at 09802-83-3422 or DSN 467-3422 or at 09802-83-2158 or DSN 467-2158.
Further health questions and concerns regarding lead exposure can be addressed to the Ansbach Army Health Clinic at Urlas Community at 06371-9464-3600 or DSN 590-3600.
Further veterinary concerns can be addressed to the Veterinary Treatment Facility at Katterbach Kaserne by calling 09802-83-3179 or DSN 467-3179, by emailing usarmy.ansbach.vtf@mail.mil, or by messaging them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnsbachVTF.
For more about lead exposure, visit the following links:
www.cdc.gov/lead (CDC Lead Information)
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/4/1036.full (American Academy of Pediatrics Policy on Lead Exposure in Children)
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp.asp?id=96&tid=22 (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Profile for Lead)
www.epa.gov/lead (EPA Lead Information)
www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water (EPA Lead in Drinking Water Information)

Further updates:
Further updates on this situation will be posted to the “Hot Topics and Important Information” section of the Ansbach Hometown Herald. Further updates on the information page will be notated on the page.

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