The Truth About Lead and Drinking Water: What You Should Know

Apr 18, 2016

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring mineral that is found throughout our environment. It is produced and distributed through the burning of fossil fuels, mining and manufacturing, and is widely used in products such as batteries, paint and ammunition. It is also found in building materials, such as solder, flux, pipes and plumbing fixtures.

 

How does it get in the water?

Lead is not often found naturally in a water supply. WCSA source waters were tested for a variety of constituents before they were selected. It is very rare for lead to be present in source waters. Thankfully, we have never detected lead in our source water.

When lead is discovered in a water system, typically it comes from within the customer’s home and occurs via the process of leaching.

 

What is leaching?

Leaching occurs when water with high acidity levels or low mineral content reacts with metal containing lead, causing piping and fixtures to deteriorate. When this happens, water can dissolve lead out of these materials into household water streams, potentially delivering a higher mineral content to household taps. 

Leaching is of greater concern in areas where the water is corrosive. Our sources here in Southwest Virginia are generally not corrosive, and we work to ensure they remain that way. However, it is wise to be aware of the kinds of materials used in the construction of your home.

 

Does WCSA have any lead service lines?

WCSA is not aware of ANY lead service lines in our service area. If you are unsure about the line from the meter to your home, have it checked by a licensed plumber, and require a trip report.

 

As a homeowner, what do I need to be aware of?

Some houses, particularly those built between 1983 and 1986, may contain pipe, solder, flux or fixtures manufactured with a higher lead content. The most common types of fixtures that contribute to leaching include brass- or chrome-plated faucets and fixtures with lead solder, particularly those exposed to hot water.

The Virginia Department of Health requires WCSA to identify these mid-1980s homes and regularly test their in-house lead levels. We are aware of 58 such homes among our customer base. Of these, 30 were evaluated in 2015. None had lead levels greater than the recommended action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), and of those tested, 80 percent were below the detection level of 2 ppb. In other words, 100 percent of these homes passed the test! This is good news for everyone in the WCSA’s service area.

 

I want to test the water coming into my home. How do I do that?

Customers who want their water checked for lead may contact us, and we will be glad to help coordinate a test. A lead sampling kit and certified lab testing, coordinated through WCSA, costs approximately $40.

Or, testing kits with directions are also generally available for $10-20 at home supply stores, such as Lowe’s, Amazon.com, Walmart and The Home Depot. After collecting the sample, it can be sent to a certified lab, such as Research Environment and Industrial Consultants, 226 Industrial Park Road, Beaver, West Virginia 25813. Testing costs are about $20. We encourage you to call ahead to confirm pricing and availability.

If you do have your water tested, please share the test results with WCSA. This helps us develop a broader picture of water quality throughout our service area.

 

If I find lead in my home’s water, how do I remove it?

If lead is present or you are uncertain whether it is present, contact a properly licensed plumber. Plumbers are able to help identify pipe, solder or fixtures containing lead. If a suspect fixture is found, have it replaced. Until work is complete, avoid using the hot water taps for cooking or drinking, and flush cold taps so that water that has been sitting in the pipe for prolonged periods (6 hours or more) is replaced with a fresh supply from the utility mains. This can take from a few seconds up to a couple minutes. Please be aware that boiling your water will not remove lead.

Hot water taps can be used for showering, as lead cannot be absorbed through the skin.

 

Where can I see the results of the WCSA’s water testing results?

WCSA summarizes our regular water testing results in our annual Consumer Confidence Report. This is mailed to customers each year and can also be accessed on our website.

  

For additional questions on this topic, please contact us at 276-628-7151. We’ll be glad to work with you to address your concerns.



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