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Lead is a mineral which is found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. It can be a serious health risk when too much of it enters the body.
Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. Lead may not be in your drinking water, but if it is, it typically enters your water after it leaves your local treatment plant or well. Lead is dissolved in water by corrosion of lead pipe or lead soldered pipe joints commonly found in the water distribution system.
Even if your home contains lead or lead soldered plumbing, you are not necessarily at risk. Over time, mineral deposits may form a coating on the inside of pipes which can prevent water from contacting lead plumbing materials. This coating usually takes years to form, and may not form at all. Lead plumbing materials have been identified as the primary source of lead contamination in drinking water today.
If your home was built after 1986, it is unlikely that your home plumbing system contains any lead. In 1986, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of lead pipes and pipe fittings containing more than 8 percent lead, and the use of solder containing more than 0.2 percent lead. Before 1930, lead pipes were commonly used in home plumbing and in the connections between homes and the public water supply. Copper pipes were often joined with lead solder until this practice was prohibited in 1986.
According to the EPA, everyone who ingests lead is susceptible to its effects because it accumulates in the body. At sufficient levels, lead can impair the reproductive and central nervous systems and may interfere with behavioral and emotional development.
In adults, lead can increase blood pressure and interfere with hearing. At high levels of exposure, lead can cause anemia, kidney damage and mental retardation.
Because of their size, children are at even greater risk than adults. Lead can reduce childrens’ IQ, causing them to become slow learners, and it can interfere with the formation of red blood cells. Lead can also delay the physical and mental development of babies and young children and impair the mental abilities of children in general.
The United States EPA sets the standards for what is considered a safe exposure to lead in drinking water. Federal law requires municipal water utilities to monitor tap water lead levels in a percentage of the households they served. Corrosion control treatment must be installed if more than 10% of these households have had levels greater than the action level of 15 parts per billion. Utilities are required to replace lead service lines within the next 15 years if a problem persists. The EPA has established a maximum contaminant level goal of zero lead content. This is solely a health goal and is not enforceable on public water systems.
The best way to find out whether your water has lead in it, is to have it tested. Please call the Water Company for a list of approved laboratories in the area that you can call to have your water tested for led.
One precaution is to flush the tap water each morning for about one minute, or until cold, to clear out lead that accumulates overnight. Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Hot water is more likely to dissolve lead into the water than cold water and may contain more lead as a result.