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New requirement may trigger a lead notification

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New requirement may trigger a lead notification

A change in the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulates lead in drinking water may result in more lead warnings in communities across the United States.

It is important to understand whether you’re at risk of being exposed to lead, because lead is seldom found at levels of concern in water supplies, at treatment facilities, or in water mains running through the streets. When lead enters a home’s drinking water, it usually is due to corrosion in lead pipes, called service lines, which connect some older homes to the water mains. If you don’t have a lead service line or lead in your home plumbing, you are not likely to be at risk.

Still, the new EPA regulation requires utilities to inform all customers – whether they have lead in their home environment or not – within 24 hours if sampling in high-risk homes suggest lead may be getting into their drinking water. Therefore, it is helpful to know if your home has lead pipes or plumbing in order to know what a notification might mean to you. (Note: The use of lead and related metal alloys in service lines was banned by U.S. Congress in 1986, so if your home was built in the 1990s or later, lead is unlikely a concern for your home.).

If your home is at risk or if you have concerns, there are some actions you can take to protect yourself and your family from lead getting into your drinking water, including those in AWWA’s Lead – Keep Your Water Safe brochure:

  • Testing at the tap, which usually costs between $15-$50, is the only way to measure the lead levels in water at your home or workplace. You can’t see, smell or taste lead in your water.
  • Hire a licensed plumber to determine whether your home has a lead service line or lead solders, pipe fittings or brass fixtures.
  • It is particularly important to flush the water from your tap when the faucet has gone unused for more than a few hours. It takes time for lead to dissolve into water, so the first water drawn from the tap in the morning or after a long period of non-use can contain higher levels of lead.
  • Use only cold water for cooking or drinking. Lead leaches more easily into hot water than cold water.
  • Boiling water DOES NOT remove lead.
  • After moving into a new home, remove faucet strainers and rinse them to remove any debris. This should be done periodically to remove accumulated debris as well.

This brief animation might also be helpful. Here’s hoping that we can make the risk of lead in drinking water a thing of the past.

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