Lead and Drinking Water

Facts About Lead and Drinking Water

We are pleased to provide our customers with this important information about lead in drinking water.

American Water’s Approach to Corrosion Control

We take steps to reduce the potential for lead to leach from your pipes into the water. This is accomplished by adding a corrosion inhibitor to the water leaving our treatment facilities, where needed. Some source waters are non-aggressive by nature, meaning there is no need to add corrosion control treatment.

Results from Lead Sampling

The results from samples collected in your water system are included in your annual water quality report (also known as the Consumer Confidence Report) as well as in the Typical Water Quality Summary, both of which can be found on our Water Quality Reports page.

Because service lines, faucet fixtures, household pipes, and/or solder can contribute significantly to the lead and copper levels in tap water, we ask our customers to collect samples in their homes. These samples are collected on a routine basis (systems begin by monitoring once every six months with reductions in sampling possible that allow for monitoring once every three years) at homes that are considered vulnerable based on when they were constructed and the materials used.  We do this monitoring according to the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule and use the results to confirm that our corrosion control strategy is operating as intended.

Assessing Your Exposure to Lead

Homes built before 1930 are more likely to have lead plumbing systems. Lead pipes are a dull grey color and scratch easily revealing a shiny surface. Lead solder used to join copper pipes is a silver or grey color. If your house was built before January 1986, you are more likely to have lead-soldered joints.

The best way to know what kind of plumbing and service lines you have in your home is to hire a licensed plumber. Every home is different and it is important that you do not rely on your neighbors for information, as their home could be different.

Lead levels in drinking water are more likely to be higher if:
• your home or water system has lead pipes or has a lead service line
• your home has copper pipes with lead solder
• your home was built before 1986
AND
• you have soft or acidic water
• water sits in the pipes for several hours

Minimizing Your Exposure to Lead

You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling water will not remove lead. Although our water is treated to minimize the risk of lead, you can reduce your household’s exposure to lead in drinking water by following these simple steps:

Flush your tap before drinking or cooking with water, if the water in the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. The longer the water lies dormant in your home’s plumbing, the more lead it might contain. Flush your tap with cold water for 30 seconds to two minutes before using. To conserve water, catch the running water and use it to water your plants.

Try not to cook with or drink water from the hot water faucet. Hot water has the potential to contain more lead than cold water. When you need hot water, heat cold water on the stove or in the microwave.

Remove loose lead solder and debris from plumbing. In newly-constructed homes or homes in which the plumbing was recently replaced, remove the strainers from each faucet and run the water for 3 to 5 minutes. When replacing or working on pipes, be sure to use materials that are lead-free. Use of lead-based solders has been banned.

Look for the “Lead Free” Label. When replacing or installing fixtures, look for the “lead free” label. Under the 2011 Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, fixtures must have 0.25% lead or less to be considered “lead free.”

Home Treatment for Lead

The need for a home treatment device or filter is a customer-specific decision.  As described above, we take steps to reduce the potential for lead to leach from your pipes into the water. Please note that certain home treatment devices, such as water softeners for example, might increase lead levels in your water. Always consult the device manufacturer for information on potential impacts to your drinking water or household plumbing.

Before purchasing a home water treatment device, consider local water quality, cost and maintenance, product performance and certifications to make sure the unit will meet your needs.  Home treatment devices require regular service. When homeowners do not maintain the unit as recommended by the manufacturer, it reduces the effectiveness and possibly results in lower quality water. 

For more information regarding home treatment, customers may choose to visit the NSF website.

Getting Your Water Tested for Lead

Lead and/or copper levels in some homes and businesses might be detected due to customer use of lead pipes, lead solder and molded metal faucets in household plumbing. American Water does not provide testing for lead for individual customers who request it. Customers can choose to have their water tested at their cost at a certified laboratory.

For more information, contact EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act Hotline: 1-800-426-4791.