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Denver landlords not required to notify tenants of lead pipes

Denver landlords are not required to notify their tenants about lead service lines, leaving some tenants in the dark about the quality of water coming from their faucets.

Colorado’s capital isn’t the only one. Disclosure requirements for lead pipes are a mixed bag across the country, with states and municipalities taking different approaches. Only a few have rules in place to inform tenants about the infrastructure in their buildings, as there is no federal mandate specific to lead pipes. However, the nation faced the consequences of lead pipes deteriorating water quality when, beginning in 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan were exposed to a toxic water source.

“Heavy metal poisoning is no joke; neither is the rent we pay here in Denver,” said Aditi Gopalakrishnan, a 26-year-old tenant from the Alamo Placita neighborhood. She rented an apartment in the same complex for four years.

“Honestly, I don’t know if any of the pipes in the building are lead,” she said. “I don’t think I ever asked because it never crossed my mind to ask.”

Gopalakrishnan, who works as a dog walker, is now worried that her cat or her clients’ pets may be drinking lead-contaminated water.

“The least a landlord or leasing company can do is do their due diligence, inform the tenant/potential tenant of any lead conduct and not hide it in a lease liability clause. “, she said. “It’s their job to provide safe housing for people.”

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment requires landlords to notify tenants of peeling or deteriorating lead paint, but not lead pipes, spokeswoman Tammy Vigil said. Denver’s ordinance requiring residential rental property licenses also does not include disclosure of lead pipes to tenants, said Eric Escudero, spokesman for the Denver Excise and Licensing Department.

The only federal housing disclosure requirement for environmental hazards is for lead-based paint, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

“If we talk to an individual landlord, I would venture a guess, if they knew they had a tenancy with lead pipes, they probably wouldn’t say anything, and a potential tenant wouldn’t know to ask,” Rocco said. Germano de Rock. Germano Realty LLC in Wheat Ridge.

But other parts of the country have taken steps to prevent tenants from unknowingly exposing themselves to contaminated water. washington dc, ordered owners to inform potential tenants of the presence of certain plumbing conditions before renting the unit. Cincinnati maintains a similar mandate. Philadelphia also requires disclosure of known lead service lines to tenants by landlords.

Denver Water, the state’s oldest and largest water utility, “cannot advise residents what a homeowner is required to disclose,” spokesman Jose Salas said in a statement. sent by email. The agency serves water to 1.5 million people in the Mile High City and surrounding areas.

The agency manages the Lead reduction programwhich began in January 2020 after receiving approval in December 2019 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Although Denver Water’s water does not contain lead, it can be contaminated when passed through lead-containing appliances, plumbing and water service lines, or pipes that carry water into the house from the main on the street, Salas said.

The lead reduction program aims to eliminate lead at the source: customer-owned service lines. Homes built before 1951 are more likely to have such lines, according to Denver Water.

Residents may know the risk of their property having a lead service line on an interactive site. map provided by Denver Water.

“We will replace approximately 4,500 customer-owned lead service lines per year over the next 13 years to remove the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines in our service area at no direct cost to the customer,” Salas said in an email. statement.

Denver Water sends free water pitchers, filters, and replacement filters to customers who may have a lead service line — an initiative that began in spring 2020. However, the water department has launched a to remark in March, that some residents mistakenly received standard Brita replacement filters, which do not remove lead, and returned the correct replacement filters.

Denver Water notes that boiling water does not remove lead.

The lead reduction program has resulted in a increase the water’s pH level, which reflects its acidity and basicity. While the pH was between 7.5 and 8.5, it is now between 8.5 and 9.2 – a measure intended to alleviate water corrosiveness and help customers with lead plumbing, Denver Water said.

Lead, which is a toxic metal that can be harmful even at low levels of exposure, can results in high blood pressure and the incidence of hypertension, reduced kidney function and reproductive problems in adults, according to the EPA. Children are particularly vulnerable, with low levels of exposure “linked to central and peripheral nervous system damage, learning disabilities, shorter stature, hearing impairment, and impaired formation and function. blood cells”.

In 1986, the US government rod the use of lead pipes in public water supply systems or plumbing that supplies water for human consumption.

Patrick Noonan from Colorado housing logs, which is Colorado’s only statewide housing helpline, said its team has logged about 30,000 contacts over the past year from people with questions about housing. . Nearly 3,200 were related to tenant-landlord issues, but ‘we can’t think of an example that someone called with a concern about lead service pipes,’ he said during an interview. ‘a telephone interview.

“I don’t think that’s a priority concern for many tenants in the state,” Noonan added.

He highlighted the obligation for homeowners to disclose and provide information about the dangers of lead – “specifically lead-based paint”. However, Noonan said he was unaware of a policy centered on lead pipes.

Brandon Scholten, owner of Keyrenter Denver, said his team wasn’t very involved in the lead pipe issue. The current property management company lists more than 50 rentals on its website.

“To my knowledge, the city sends notices directly to the property, as well as to the water filters, so we are not aware,” he said in an emailed statement.

Still, some residents want more transparency around lead pipes.

Harrison Citrin, a 25-year-old tenant in the Capitol Hill and Alamo Placita area, said his landlord chose to tell him about the likelihood of lead pipes on the property, and “that should definitely be mandatory” for donors to do so. .

“We know the water quality isn’t great,” he said, adding that he used both a Brita water filter and a showerhead filter. “It would be great if the pipes weren’t lead, but we’re dealing with that.”

Kara Bogner, a 34-year-old tenant, said “I have no idea” if her apartment has lead pipes. She received no notification about it.

“I wouldn’t move because of it,” Bogner said. However, “it would be nice” if landlords were obliged to inform their tenants, she added.