How Can Lead Get into my Water
Lead can leach into tap water if the service line that connects your home to the water main in the street is made of lead. The pipes that carry water in the street are usually made of iron or steel, and do not add lead to your water. More information about lead service lines is below. If you have concerns about your service line, you should contact your DPI repair shop at (508) 979-1550.
Lead can also get into tap water if you have lead pipes in your home. Lead can also enter tap water if you have lead solder on pipes or brass fixtures in your home. Homes built before 1989, when lead solder was banned, will likely contain lead solder. Corrosion or wearing-away of lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, especially if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use. Information about reducing your potential exposure to lead is further down this page.
About Lead Service Lines
A service line is the pipe that connects your house to the water main in the street. Some service lines that run from older homes (usually those built before 1940) to the utility water main are made from lead. Over time, many of these older service lines have been replaced, but your home could still have one.
How to Tell if You Have a Lead Service Line
To determine if your home has a lead service line you (or your plumber) need to inspect the service line.
Lead service lines are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. You can identify them easily by carefully scratching with a key. If the pipe is made of lead, the area you’ve scratched will turn a bright silver color. Do not use a knife or other sharp instrument and take care not to puncture a hole in the pipe
Lead Service Line Replacement
Ownership of the lead service line is typically shared between homeowners and your local water department. The homeowner typically owns the section of the pipe that is under the homeowner’s property. A lead service line replacement requires participation from both the water department and the homeowner.
The actual cost of service line replacement reflects a number of factors, including the length of the service line, the technique used to install the new service line, and the environment where the service line is located.
Please contact the DPI repair shop at (508) 979-1550 to learn more about options for lead service line replacement and any payment assistance possible.
When replacing lead service lines, it is best to replace the entire lead service line and not just a portion of it. The surest way to remove concerns about lead from lead service lines is to get all the lead out by removing the entire service line.
If a pregnant woman or child lives in your home, replacing the entire service line can be an important way to reduce the potential for lead exposure.
How to Reduce Potential Exposure to Lead
To reduce your potential exposure, you should always use fresh, cold, running water for drinking and cooking. You should always buy plumbing fixtures that have zero- or low-lead levels . Read the labels of any new plumbing fixtures closely.
Here are more steps you can take:
- Run tap water until after the water feels cold. Then fill a pitcher with fresh water and place in the refrigerator for future use.
- Never use hot water from the faucet for drinking or cooking, especially when making baby formula or food for infants. Hot water can leach more lead into water than cold.
- Do not boil water to reduce lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead levels. In fact, because of evaporation while boiling it will increase the concentration of lead.
- Be careful of places you may find lead in your home. Some household items such as pottery, makeup, toys, and jewelry may contain lead. Lead paint was outlawed in 1978, but paint, soil, and dust from homes that still have lead paint are the most common source of exposure to lead. Therefore, make sure to wash your children’s hands and toys often as they come into contact with dirt and dust containing lead.
- Enter your account number above to see if there are lead service lines leading to your home, and contact the DPI repair shop at (508) 979-1550 to confirm or get information on replacement.
- Call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (1-800-532-9571) for health information.
- Get your home’s water tested at a lab that is MassDEP certified(http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/certified-laboratories.html#1– click on Find MassDEP-Certified Laboratories ) to test household tap water for lead.
How to Get Your Home’s Tap Water Tested for Lead
The best way to find out if your household tap water contains lead is to get your water tested by a lab that is MassDEP certified to test household tap water for lead. MassDEP certified labs reliably test water at an affordable cost. Mail-in and drop-off options are available. Visit the MassDEP Certified Lab web page(http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/certified-laboratories.html) for a list of labs and helpful links.
Lead testing kits can also be picked up at the DPI for $15, once the samples are returned they are sent to a third party laboratory for analysis. You can contact the DPI repair shop at (508) 979-1550 to obtain a lead testing kit and instructions.
Under direction from the US EPA, MassDEP requires your local water department to test tap water in a sample of homes that are likely to have high lead levels. These are usually homes with lead service lines or lead solder.
The Action Level (AL) for lead is 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/L), a.k.a. 15 parts per billion (ppb). The AL is compared to the 90th percentile value of all sampling results collected during each monitoring period. (Meaning that if more than 10 out of 100 samples taken exceed 15 ppb, then the AL is exceeded.) Exceeding the AL is not a violation, however, if the 90th percentile value exceeds the lead AL, additional actions are required. These actions include collecting additional water quality data, including a sample of the source water, conducting public education, and evaluating corrosion control treatment, and installing it if needed. If corrosion control treatment was in place at time of the exceedance, then a lead service line replacement program should commence.
Important Information about the Health Risk of Lead from US EPA
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.
If you are concerned about exposure to lead, talk to your local health care provider about having your or your child’s blood tested for lead. A blood level test is the only way to know if you are being exposed to lead.
It is possible that lead levels in your home may be higher than levels in other homes in your community as a result of materials used in your home’s plumbing. If you are concerned about lead levels in your home’s water, you can test your water with a lead test kit that can be picked up at the DPI for $15. Once the samples are returned they are sent to a third party laboratory for analysis. You can contact the DPI repair shop at (508) 979-1550 to obtain a lead testing kit and instructions.
Should I Buy a Home Filtration System or Bottled Water?
Simply running your tap until the water is noticeably colder, after the water has been sitting for several hours, is usually a much cheaper and effective alternative to a filter or bottled water. Some water filtration systems do not remove lead. Before you purchase a filter, you should verify the manufacturer’s claim. A good resource is the National Sanitation Foundation (1-877-867-3435).If your water has elevated levels of lead after flushing, bottled water is also an option, but it may cost as much as 1,000 times more than tap water.
For more information on lead in school or childcare facilities see Lead & Copper in Schools(http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/lead-and-other-contaminants-in-drinking-water.html#8).
What New Bedford is Doing to Lower Lead Levels at the Tap
New Bedford has made the water less corrosive, thereby reducing the leaching of lead into drinking water. Part of the treatment process at the Quittacas Treatment Plant includes the adjustment of the water’s pH and buffering capacity which provides corrosion control and makes the water less likely to leach lead from the pipes.
The New Bedford DPI is taking on an aggressive lead service replacement program with the goal of replacing a majority of lead services with grant funding and subcontractors. They are maintaining the goal of replacing approximately 200 lead services per year.
If you do have a lead service and would like it replaced, or if you have any questions about your service please contact the DPI repair shop at 508-979-1550.
- US EPA Lead Information (http://www.epa.gov/lead)
- CDC Lead Information (http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/)
- Mass.gov and DPH Lead Testing (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/state-lab/services/lead-testing.html)
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Prevention Program, 800-532-9571
- Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Lead Information
- Centers for Disease Control Lead Information
- Lead Information in Multiple Languages: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/environmental-health/exposure-topics/lead/child-health/sources-of-lead-besides-lead-paint.html
(1) Water service line illustration courtesy American Waterworks Association
(2, 3) Lead service line photos courtesy EPA Region 5