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Lead & Drinking Water FAQ

Click on a topic below to view the answers.

How does lead get into drinking water?

Although some utilities use source waters that contain lead, the Service Authority's water sources – the Potomac River, Occoquan Reservoir, Lake Manassas, and the Bull Run/Evergreen Well System – do not contain lead. In addition, the Service Authority has no lead water main pipelines.

Another 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 service lines, plumbing fixtures and solder connections, it may dissolve into the water after the water sits for long periods of time.

Unlike some other water providers, the Service Authority does not have lead service lines in its service area. Service Authority water has a corrosion inhibitor added to it to help prevent lead from dissolving into your drinking water (see below).

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 purveyors, 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.

Does the Service Authority have elevated levels of lead in its drinking water?

No. Testing in accordance with the EPA has demonstrated that there are no elevated levels of lead in the drinking water distributed by the Service Authority. Since testing began in the early 1990s, the Service Authority’s water lead levels have tested well within the EPA’s compliance standards.

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

The EPA action level of 15 ppb 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 are reflective of 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 purveyors 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 at this system is limited to using sodium hydroxide for pH adjustment. Once pH is adjusted the water is no longer very aggressive, 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 do I have the water in my home tested for lead?

Certified laboratories that analyze for lead are available and can be found 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 Web sites (as of April 2012):

Additional information is available from the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791; TTY 711 Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST.