Aquarion water systems have long met and continue to comply with all Federal and State quality standards, including those for lead content. Each year we report to customers the levels of lead and many other potentially hazardous substances that may be found in water systems. To provide you with even more information, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about lead content in drinking water. We hope it helps you determine and reduce the risks of lead in your drinking water.
Is there lead in the water that Aquarion Water supplies?
Testing has shown that there is no lead in the water exiting our water treatment facilities. In addition, we treat our water to reduce the chances of lead entering the supply from pipes and plumbing between our facilities and your taps.
Is it still possible for lead to get into my drinking water?
Despite the quality of our water sources and the overall effectiveness of our treatment process, households with service lines or plumbing systems that contain lead might still have lead in their drinking water.
The chances of this occurring are highest in homes built before 1930, as they are more likely to have lead plumbing systems. Lead service lines, which can often be seen at their entry point through a home’s foundation, are dull grey and scratch easily to reveal a shiny surface. If you have a lead service line, we recommend that you have a licensed plumber replace it. Lead services lines on a customer’s property are the responsibility of the property owner, and are owned, installed and maintained at the owner’s expense. (See ownership diagram here.) Aquarion will send out notices if we discover that your home has a lead service line and strongly advise you to have a licensed plumber replace it.
Houses built before 1986 are more likely to have lead-soldered plumbing joints. Lead solder used to join copper pipes is silver or grey. You can find kits at hardware and home supply stores that you can use to test the surface of soldered joints for the presence of lead. If you have lead-soldered joints, the chance of the lead leaching into your drinking water is greater when water has been standing in the pipes for many hours – overnight, for example.
To check if your drinking water has lead and what the level is, you can have the water tested by a laboratory. It’s the only sure way of determining the lead level, since lead dissolved in water cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. You can search for a list of certified testing laboratories through Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection website (http://www.mass.gov). Be sure to contact labs directly for information on costs and the requirements for sampling bottles.
Is lead in water regulated? Does Aquarion Water comply with the standards?
Yes and yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead standard requires treatment modifications if lead test results exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of “first-draw samples”* taken from household taps. We conduct tests in our distribution system in accordance with the EPA regulatory requirements. For further information on your system, visit Aquarion’s website at aquarionwater.com to view our latest Water Quality Report, which you find under our site’s Water Quality menu.
Why are people concerned about lead exposure?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. It can be found in air, soil, dust, food and water. The most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint routinely used in homes and buildings built before 1978, when that type of paint was banned. The best way to be sure is to have your home tested for lead paint.
Exposure to lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects. These may include increases in the blood pressure of some adults; delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children; and, deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children.
Although water is not the main source of exposure, lead also can be found in some water service lines and some household plumbing. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.
How could lead get into my drinking water?
As noted above, lead is rarely if ever found naturally in Aquarion’s water sources or in the treated water flowing through our distribution system. More commonly, lead may leach into water over time through corrosion – the dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and some plumbing systems. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on the types and amounts of minerals in the water, how long the water stays in the pipes, how corrosive the water is, and the water’s temperature.
How will I know if my drinking water has lead in it?
Aquarion regularly tests the water at a selected number of high-risk homes. If results exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of “first-draw samples” taken from household taps, we send notices to our customers in the affected systems and provide instructions on what to do to limit lead exposure as required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
While it is a good screening technique, every home is different, and lead levels can vary from home to home depending on differences, like pipes, solder, and fixtures used. You can also have your drinking water tested for lead. Since you cannot see, taste or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the best way of determining the lead level in your home. You can search for a list of certified testing laboratories through Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website (http://www.mass.gov). Be sure to contact labs directly for information on costs and the requirements for sampling bottles.
How can I reduce my exposure to lead in my drinking water?
There are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water, but if you have lead service lines, the best step you can take is to have them replaced by a licensed plumber. In addition:
- Run your water to flush out lead. If it hasn’t been used for several hours, run the water for three to five minutes to clear most of the lead from the water. (To conserve water, remember to catch the flushed tap water for plants or some other household use such as cleaning.)
- Always use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Never cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Never use water from the hot water tap to make formula.
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
- Periodically remove and clean the faucet screen/aerator. While removed, run the water to eliminate debris.
- Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings and valves may leach lead into drinking water. Products sold after Jan. 4, 2014, must by law contain very low levels of lead.
- Have a licensed electrician check your wiring. Your home electrical system may be attached to your service line or elsewhere in your plumbing. If this connection is electrified, it can accelerate corrosion. Check with a licensed electrician to correct ground faults and evaluate your local electric code to determine if your wiring can be grounded elsewhere. DO NOT attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper bonding or grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
Should I test my children for exposure to lead?
Children at risk of exposure to lead should be tested. Your doctor or local health center can perform a simple blood test to determine your child’s blood-lead level.
Where can I find more information?
Aquarion Water Quality Management Department
*A “first-draw sample” is one taken from tap water that has stood motionless in the plumbing pipes for at least six hours.