Since July 2014, an unknown number of water refilling stations and campground water spigots were refitted with a plumbing component that came with a warning label that the “wye strainer” contained greater than 2.5 percent lead and cannot be used in potable water systems.
When Woody Smeck, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks superintendent, was informed about the misapplication, he immediately ordered an investigation of the parks’ water facilities to determine where and why the substandard parts were installed. Smeck said the strainers were ordered and installed in an attempt to alleviate grit in the spring-loaded faucets that has been a recurring problem.
“As of this week, there were about 10 to 12 of the lead faucets still being used at Hospital Rock and Potwisha Campground,” Smeck said. “Those faucets have been turned off and will be refitted with a new brass product.”
A source that requested anonymity said the majority of lead parts were used in Lodgepole area water faucets. Those spigots are turned off for the winter.
Superintendent Smeck said that the parks’ health officer called the risk to the public “negligible” and for the lead to be a factor the water must be consumed in large quantities and for an extended period of time.
“It’s troubling to me that there was a breakdown in the quality control in one of our departments here at Sequoia National Park,” Smeck said. “I feel confident that there was no intentional wrong-doing and no significant risk to public health.”
Lead is a naturally occurring metal but is extremely toxic to humans, affecting the liver, kidneys, reproductive system, and nervous system. Children are the most at-risk for lead exposure.