Lead Contamination of Water

Lead is a metal that is harmful to health, especially for children. If there is lead in pipes, fixtures, or the solder that connects the pipes, drinking water may become contaminated.

What you should do

Evaluate your drinking water's risk of lead contamination

  • Older buildings are more likely to have lead in the plumbing. If your home or building was built or plumbed before 1983, you could have lead-soldered copper pipes.
  • New buildings may also be at risk. Legally, plumbing that is lead-free can contain up to eight percent lead.
  • Call your water supplier to find out if you have a lead service line.
  • Look at the line coming in to your water meter to determine if it is lead. Scratch it with a file. If it shines like a penny, it is made of copper. If it shines like a nickel, it is made of lead. If it does not look like a penny or a nickel, it may be galvanized or plastic.

Test for lead in drinking water

Perform routine prevention and control actions, even if no lead was found

  • Create and follow aerator cleaning schedules for all water faucets so that debris can be removed.
  • Use only cold water for food preparation and drinking. Hot water dissolves lead faster than cold water.
  • Flush faucets and drinking fountains regularly, especially after vacations or long periods of inactivity.
  • Schools and businesses should post signs in bathrooms that water from the sink faucets should not be used for drinking water. Put both words and pictures on signs.
  • If lead is detected in the water, consider testing all faucets and drinking fountains on a regular basis.

Take Suggested Actions, if sample results are between 1 ppb and 15 ppb

  • Remove and clean or replace faucet aerators.
  • Consider replacing faucets or water fountains with a lead-free, NSF-approved fixture.
  • Refer to EPA's 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools that includes information on assessing plumbing and implementing control measures to reduce elevated lead levels.
  • Flush the pipes to the faucet or drinking fountain each morning before students arrive. Flushing the pipes will get rid of water that has been in the pipes overnight.
    • Water fountains without refrigeration and water faucets should be run for 30 second to one minute until the water is noticeably colder.
    • Water fountains with refrigeration should be run for 15 minutes.

Take Strongly Recommended Actions, if sample results are higher than 15 ppb

  • Do not use water faucets or fountains for drinking water.
  • Schools and businesses should post a Do Not Use sign on the faucet or drinking fountain, turn it off, or remove it completely.
  • Conduct follow-up testing after all of the Suggested Actions have been completed.

If you are a homeowner with city water, consider:

  • Getting a filter that removes lead from drinking water used for drinking and cooking. Check the label to be sure the filter is certified to remove lead. List