PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Exposure to lead can cause brain and kidney damage, so one can imagine the concern in four New Jersey towns where residents have been told they have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, the levels of lead found in drinking water in some homes, including residences in Paterson and Passaic, are not considered dangerous. But residents said they have been taking precautions.

“I don’t drink the tap water in my town,” said Pamela Smith of Passaic. “I strictly stick to spring water.”

Residents in Clifton and Prospect Park have also received warnings.

Lead in tap water has been an on-and-off-again problem in the tows, according to the Passaic Valley Water Commission executive director Joseph Bella.

“It’s really isn’t the lead in the water originally, but leeches out of plumbing fixtures and piping,” Bella said, “and that kind of thing in the house.”

So residents have been instructed to flush out their entire system by running water 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula.

Residents are advised not to boil water. Such an action will kill living organisms, but will not have any effect on inanimate metal such as lead.

Residents are also advised to buy bottled water or a water filter.

Passaic Valley Water has upgraded its treatment plant, and replaced many lead pipes. There were 30,000, but now the commission is down to the last couple of hundred, Bella said.

But the major problem is old, open reservoirs. The company wants to build enclosed tanks in order to add a chemical compound that would decrease the levels of lead in the water.

But that would cost $80 million.

The elevated levels were found during tests in September and October.

How would you handle elevated lead levels in your water? Leave your comments below…

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