How does Lead get into drinking water?
Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.
Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. A number of factors are involved in the extent to which lead enters the water, including:
- The corrosiveness (acidity and alkalinity) of the water
- The amount of lead in the pipes the water flows through
- The age of the pipes
- The temperature of the water,
- How long the water stays in pipes the pipes before it is used
- The presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.
To address corrosion of lead and copper into drinking water, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). One requirement of the LCR is corrosion control treatment to prevent lead and copper from contaminating drinking water. Corrosion control treatment means utilities must make drinking water less corrosive to the materials it comes into contact with on its way to consumers' taps.
What is Wayne doing to reduce lead levels?
The action level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb) or 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/l). The EPA requires Water Suppliers to take action to reduce lead levels if the 90th percentile sample taken is above the 15ppb action level. The original samples taken in Wayne in the 1990’s showed that the 90th percentile sample at the consumers tap had lead levels of 18ppb at that time.
The NJDWSC studied this problem and determined that introduction of a corrosion inhibitor into the water distribution system would reduce lead levels in drinking water at consumer taps. This process began in the fall of 2001.
Since the addition of the corrosion control inhibitor to the water, the water sampling data has shown that the lead levels have been decreased to below the action level. Sampling will continue in the future to ensure that the lead level in the drinking water stays below the action level.
How can you reduce lead in your drinking water at home?
Flush your pipes before drinking: The more time water has been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain. Anytime the water in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, "flush" your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take as little as five to thirty seconds if there has been recent heavy water use such as showering or toilet flushing. Otherwise, it could take two minutes or longer. Your water utility will inform you if longer flushing times are needed to respond to local conditions.
Only use cold water for eating and drinking: Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get. Note that boiling water will NOT get rid of lead contamination.
Use water filters or treatment devices: Many water filters and water treatment devices are certified by independent organizations for effective lead reduction. Devices that are not designed to remove lead will not work.
Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead