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National Drinking Water Database
Copper in Virginia
Copper is a naturally occuring metal and drinking water contaminant that enters tap water by corrosion of household plumbing systems and erosion of natural deposits. [read more]
Copper is a reddish metal found in rock, soil, water, and at low levels in air. Copper is a required nutrient at low levels in people, but toxic effects can occur at higher doses. Copper is mined and processed to make wire, sheet metal, pipe and other metal products such as pennies. Copper is also used in agriculture to treat mildew in plants and as a preservative for wood, leather and fabric (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 2004a). Copper in the form of its salt, copper sulfate, is sometimes added to surface water for the control of algae, which may lead to drinking water contamination with copper (WHO 2004a).
During the year 2002, 345,120,802 pounds of copper and copper compounds were released into the environment, according to U.S. EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report released in 2004. Industries releasing over nine million pounds during the year included solvent recovery, electric utilities, metal mining and primary metals industries. Copper release was geographically concentrated in the southwestern United States, with 15 states experiencing releases of over two million pounds (CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, AL, GA, FL, MO, WI, IL, IN, OH, PA, AK) (US EPA 2009i).
People are exposed to copper by breathing air, drinking water, eating food and absorbing it through the skin. High levels of copper in drinking water may result from the leaching of copper from brass or copper pipes. Copper levels can be especially high if water sits in the pipes overnight, but letting water run for 15-30 seconds before the first use of the day will decrease levels. High levels of copper in drinking water (six mg/L or parts per million) can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting (Araya 2001, 2003; Pizarro 2001).
Some but not all studies have found an association between high blood levels of copper and increased risk of heart disease (Ford 2000; Reunanen 1996; Salonen 1991). One study found that Americans with the highest blood levels of copper were almost three times more likely to have heart disease than people with the lowest blood levels (Ford 2000). Long-term effects of excess copper exposure include neurotoxicity and liver and kidney failure (ATSDR 2004a).
People with Wilson's disease, a genetic disorder that leads to high levels of copper in several organs (liver, kidney and brain), should be especially careful to avoid excess copper exposure. In these people, high copper levels can cause brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, movement disorders, weight loss and death if not treated (ATSDR 2004a). A liver disease called Indian Childhood Cirrhosis (ICC), which affects children living in rural India, has been linked to high copper intake caused by storing and heating of cow (or buffalo) milk in brass containers. There seems to be a genetic vulnerability in children with ICC that makes them more vulnerable to high copper levels. Children with a related disease, idiopathic copper toxicosis (ICT), are also believed by scientists to be genetically more susceptible to excess copper intake. ICT affects children from all over the world and causes liver damage and death if left untreated (ATSDR 2004a).
In laboratory animals, high levels of copper in drinking water or diet impair immune response, decrease growth in young animals and delay skeletal development (ATSDR 2004a).
The Most Polluted Communities in Virginia
795 water utilities reported detecting Copper in tap water since 2004, according to EWG's analysis of water quality data supplied by state water agencies
Ranked by highest average Copper level
|Rank||System||Population Served||Positive test results of total reported tests||Average Level|
|298||1 of 1||7000 ppb|
|2||Campbell County East System|
|80||1 of 1||7000 ppb|
|130||1 of 1||6900 ppb|
|424||1 of 1||6000 ppb|
|120||1 of 1||6000 ppb|
Fort Eustis, VA
|16,900||3 of 3||5000 ppb|
|7||Little Creek Amphibious Base - U.S. Navy|
|9,782||1 of 1||5000 ppb|
|8||Appalachia #1/Wise Co Psa|
|350||3 of 4||3675 ppb|
(0 to 7000 ppb)
|9||Western Virginia Water Authority|
|155,000||3 of 3||3666.67 ppb|
(3000 to 4000 ppb)
|10||Peumansend Creek Regional Jail|
Bowling Green, VA
|325||1 of 1||3500 ppb|
Health Based Limits for Copper
|California Public Health Goals||Defined by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as the level of contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. For acutely toxic substances, levels are set at which scientific evidence indicates that no known or anticipated adverse effects on health will occur, plus an adequate margin-of safety. PHGs for carcinogens or other substances which can cause chronic disease shall be based solely on health effects without regard to cost impacts and shall be set at levels which OEHHA has determined do not pose any significant risk to health.||300 ppb|
|National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations||A National Secondary Drinking Water Regulation is a non-enforceable guideline regarding contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color). Some states choose to adopt them as enforceable standards. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||1000 ppb|
|Maximum Contaminant Limit Goal (MCLG)||A non-enforceable health goal that is set at a level at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons occurs and which allows an adequate margin of safety. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||1300 ppb|
|EPA Human Health Water Quality Criteria||Water quality criteria set by the US EPA provide guidance for states and tribes authorized to establish water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to protect human health. These are non-enforceable standards based upon exposure by both drinking water and the contribution of water contamination to other consumed foods. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||1300 ppb|
Violation Summary for Copper in Virginia
There are no violations reported for this contaminant in Virginia