“While lead is a concern in urban areas with older houses and buildings, it can also be a concern in other areas. According to the EPA, lead is more likely to be present in structures built prior to 1986.”
As part of national Drinking Water Week, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is working to educate residents about how lead enters drinking water and the steps they can take to reduce any risk to their families.
“Clean and safe drinking water is important to all of us,” DEP Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said. “As we mark national Drinking Water Week, it’s important for families to take a little time to become better informed about how to find out if lead is in their water and what they can do about it.”
Drinking Water Week is held each May to draw attention to the importance of drinking water and the efforts that government and system operators take to ensure safe and reliable supplies. Drinking Water Week is sponsored by the American Water Works Association and its members.
In New Jersey, the DEP is responsible for enforcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. The DEP evaluates results of testing done by water systems at properties most likely to contain lead. If more than 10 percent of the result are above 15 parts per billion, the water system will conduct more frequent sampling and perform corrective actions.
In almost all cases, minute particles of lead enter drinking water as the result of leaching from customers’ service lines, internal plumbing, lead-based solder, and certain fixtures. Lead is rarely found in the source of water delivered by water systems.
While lead is a concern in urban areas with older houses and buildings, it can also be a concern in other areas. According to the EPA, lead is more likely to be present in structures built prior to 1986.
Many factors affect the amount of lead that leaches into the water, including lead content of pipes, fixtures, and solder, the length of time that water remains standing in the plumbing; water temperature; pH; and water hardness.
Lead presents health concerns for people of all ages, but particularly pregnant women, infants and young children. If consumers live in homes where lead is in contact with drinking water, they may be at risk of exposure.
A study from the American Water Works Association suggests that lead service lines (lines that connect a system’s water mains to properties the system serves) may be present in 6 million to 10 million homes nationwide.
Water systems can adjust water chemistry to reduce leaching of lead into water. Property owners can also take steps to reduce potential exposure to lead.
To determine if lead is present in pipes or plumbing, homeowners or tenants can consult with a licensed plumber or their public water supplier. If you are unsure who your supplier is, click here. If lead components are found, it is recommended that property owners explore options for replacing them.
Until lead service lines or plumbing can be replaced, the following steps can be taken to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water:
- Run your water to flush out lead. If a faucet hasn’t been used for several hours, run the water for 15 to 30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes any lead particles in water from the pipes.
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more readily in hot water.
- Test the water. Contact your water system or a certified drinking water laboratory to have your home drinking water tested for lead. (Please note that the homeowner may be responsible for any costs).
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not remove lead from the water.
- Use alternate sources or treatment of water. Consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking, or a water filter designed to remove lead. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s standards to ensure water quality.
- Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how to get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about lead exposure.
- Ask your school or child care about their lead sampling results. Any drinking water outlet (i.e. fountain or sink) with a result over the action level of 15 ppb should be taken out of service immediately. Click here for more information on school testing.
Finding information about local water is simple. As required by federal law, water suppliers must provide customers with an annual water quality report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report. This report identifies the quality of drinking water and lists sampling results as well as drinking water standards. Information on each community’s local source or sources for drinking water is also provided in the Consumer Confidence Report.
Although customers are directly notified of any violations by their water system, the DEP’s Drinking Water Watch website provides current online access to drinking water data, including water testing results and any violations. More information about lead in drinking water is available on www.DrinkTap.org and www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/dwc-lead-consumer.html.