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Lead and Copper FAQs

(Posted on December 5, 2022)

In December 2020, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first major up-date to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in nearly 30 years. EPA’s new rule strengthens every aspect of the LCR to better protect children and communities from the risks of lead exposure and provide increased access to information.

The Service Authority has compiled these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help explain what the new federal requirements mean for our customers.

Click on a topic below to view the answers.

What is the purpose of the Lead and Copper Revised Rule?

The revised rule is intended to minimize the risks of lead exposure in children and communities by better protecting children at schools and childcare facilities, safeguarding the nation’s drinking water and empowering communities through information.

How is this rule different from the original Lead and Copper Rule?

The original Lead and Copper Rule set requirements for the frequency of lead and copper testing, volume requirements for water sampling, action and trigger levels for lead and copper, and necessary steps if those levels were met or exceeded.

The revised rule requires an inventory of all pipe materials from public water mains to privately owned structures, changes the volume of water required for a sample, enhances testing at schools and day care facilities, establishes public outreach requirements and defines lead service lines and replacement requirements.

What are the requirements for the service line inventory?

The Service Authority must conduct an inventory of all service lines on both the Service Authority’s side of the water meter and the property owner’s side of the meter. The Service Authority must submit the results to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) by October 16, 2024. The test results must classify all service lines in one of the following categories:

  • Lead – where the service line is made of lead
  • Non-Lead – where evidence indicates the service line is not made of lead
  • Galvanized Requiring Replacement – where a galvanized service line is downstream of a current or former lead service line; or
  • Lead Status Unknown – where there is no documentation or evidence to classify the material type

Has the Service Authority tested for lead before the revised rule?

Yes. The original Lead and Copper Rule required testing in the Service Authority’s distribution system as well as established action levels for both lead and copper when the rule was first published in 1991.

All the Service Authority’s distribution systems have remained in compliance with the original Lead and Copper Rule since its inception. Additionally, the Service Authority partnered with Prince William County Schools and analyzed samples, for lead in school drinking water, under Virginia regulations that took effect in 2017.

What are next steps?

As of late 2022/early 2023, the Service Authority is working on a service line inventory. Once the inventory is completed, it will be sent to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

All systems must make their lead service line inventories available to the public. In addition, all systems serving greater than 50,000 people must make their lead service line inventory publicly available.

Once VDH approves the line inventory, the Service Authority will identify lead and copper sampling locations in areas that contain lead service lines. Also, 20 percent of the elementary schools and child care facilities in our service area will be sampled each year for the first five years. If the distribution system exceeds the 90th percentile for the EPA’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion, the Service Authority will be required to replace 3% of the lead service lines in the distribution system annually or until the system has two consecutive monitoring periods where all results are below the action level.

How does lead get into drinking water?

The Service Authority's drinking water sources, including the Potomac River, Occoquan Reservoir, Lake Manassas, and the Bull Run/Evergreen Well System, do not contain any lead.

A source of lead in drinking water can be household plumbing. In 1986, lead was banned from use in pipes and solder for drinking water systems. In older homes, where lead is present in the service lines, plumbing fixtures and solder connections, it may leach into the water after the water sits for long periods of time.

The water the Service Authority purchases from Fairfax Water and the City of Manassas is treated with a corrosion inhibitor, which is added to help prevent lead from leaching from household plumbing into drinking water.

What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for lead in drinking water?

When lead testing is performed as required by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 90 percent of the samples must contain less than 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. EPA has established an action level for lead in water of 15 ppb, meaning that a water system with more than 15 ppb of lead in 10 percent of its samples may require changes to the water treatment process, replacement of lead service lines and public outreach. Fairfax Water and the City of Manassas, the Service Authority’s water suppliers, have been testing for lead in accordance with the Lead and Copper Rule since 1992 and have consistently tested below the action level established by the rule.

What is the relationship between the EPA action level for drinking water and lead levels in the blood?

The EPA action level of 15 parts per billion of lead in drinking water was established based on reasonable risk assessments. It is the level that requires additional corrective and educational actions but does not necessarily directly correlate to increased blood-lead levels. Blood-lead levels reflect a variety of factors, such as age; exposure to dusts, paint chips or soil containing lead; and the amount of water consumed daily. For women, pregnancy can also affect blood-lead levels. Nationally, the biggest source of increased blood-lead levels in children is the ingestion of lead-based paint chips.

What are the health effects of too much lead?

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. For infants and children, exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical or mental development. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive a greater percentage because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size. For adults, exposure to high levels of lead can result in kidney problems or high blood pressure. Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, the EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from drinking water.

What is the Service Authority doing to minimize lead exposure from my plumbing system?

East and West Water Systems

The water distributed in the East and West Systems is purchased from Fairfax Water and the City of Manassas. Both water suppliers add a phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor and adjust the pH of the water to help prevent lead from leaching into your drinking water from household plumbing.

Bull Run Mountain/Evergreen

Corrosion control for this public well system is limited to using sodium hydroxide for pH adjustment. Once pH is adjusted, the water is no longer excessively corrosive, promoting pipe longevity while reducing the leaching of lead into the distribution system and home plumbing.

What can I do in my home to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water?

  • Any time the water has been sitting unused for six hours or longer, flush your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes a constant temperature. Saving the water for other purposes, such as plant watering, is a good conservation measure.
  • Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula. Hot water may contain higher levels of lead.
  • Some people choose to install a water filter in their home. If you choose to do so, follow these three important suggestions:
  1. Choose one designed for the specific filtration desired, such as lead.
  2. Make sure the filter is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org).
  3. Maintain the filter as directed by the manufacturer.

How can I have the water in my home tested for lead?

Certified laboratories that analyze for lead are available and can be found by clicking here or by calling 804-225-4949, TTY 711.

Where can I find more information about lead in drinking water?

Information about lead is also available on the following websites:

Additional information is available from the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791; TTY 711 Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST.