As of this moment, if you live in the United States, clean, clear water is available within a few feet of where you are right this moment. In a year the average American consumes more than 30 gallons of bottle water per year. 1999-2017 per capita consumption. Individually we each spend at least a $100 per year on water in a bottle. Considering in 1976 the average American bought 1.5 gallons of bottled water per year, the market has been booming for this overpriced product.
If clean, safe drinking water can be had for pennies for a ton we are overpaying by….(Do the math here). Think about this, often we decide against a purchase over the financial difference of a percentage of less than 5%. In competitive real estate markets the same people who pay hundreds and hundred of a percent over the price of water drop out of the negotiations for fear of looking silly for overpaying. Nothing wrong with that of course, but compared to the craziness of buying free water in a plastic bottle for $2.00 a bottle, overpaying for a home which may increase in value along with all its other attributes seems like a smart decision to be applauded. Of course the amount we overpay isn’t available to spend on plastic bottle water.
It took the Flint, Michigan lead contaminated water crisis to dramatically change the conversation from passive to serious in a hurry. The scientific, educational, and public safety communities will provide the research evidence to keep pressure on state and local governments, and utilities to effectively mitigate lead levels in water. The EPA has established action levels for remediation.
Attention is focused on old and deteriorating lead water lines serving communities . Wisconsin identified 5 counties with high risk lead levels and allocated limited funds to those counties replace public and private lead service lines. The other 67 counties are not lead free. They just aren’t in the top 5 as identified so far. In Dane County, the city of Madison has been sharing the cost of replacing lead service to homes since 2001. (By sharing, the City rebates the homeowner $1000.00 of a typical $3,000 bill.) Mount Horeb was in the news this year. A sample of homes in target areas of the Village showed 16% of the homes with higher than safety standard levels of lead in their drinking water.
Estimates for replacing lead lines put the cost at $3,000 to $5,000 per house. Obviously State and Local governments have a significant price to consider as they write public policy to comply with EPA 15 Parts Per Billion action level directive.
As real estate licensees in the lead-in-the-water discussion, our place is not to be a referee or judge. We will see differing opinions on risk. We will hear debates of the merits of pipe replacement. Expect to hear no-fear opinions from the municipalities and water utilities. Our role is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement THEY are satisfied with, and their satisfaction of the risk of lead poisoning can not include our opinions of the evidence or the science.
Homes built prior to the 1940’s are the ones most likely to have lead pipes coming into the house from the street. It’s not always easy to see the lead pipe, but inspectors may have clues to look for. A water test for lead won’t show the a lead pipe exists, but it might provide some evidence that the water is relatively safe.
As a plan of action, consider a test by a licensed plumber done in compliance with EPA rules. Homeowners may avoid delays, surprises, and difficult negotiating positions by testing for lead in the water before offering the house for sale. Maybe we will see more home buyers requesting water tests for these older homes. Assisting the parties in knowing the rules of proper testing will always be safe and prudent practice.