Lead in Drinking Water

Lead in Drinking Water

Water is lead-free when it leaves the water treatment plant, but lead can be released when the water comes in contact with pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead. Lead levels vary, so it is important to identify and remove any lead plumbing.

What You Need to Know

  • Lead is a heavy metal that can enter drinking water from the corrosion of pipes and plumbing materials.
  • Since 1997, the City of Elkhart has treated drinking water with a polyphosphate additive to minimize lead leaching into the drinking water.
  • Exposure to lead is a public health risk, especially for pregnant women and children under the age of six.

 Lead Exposure and Health

  • Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body.
  • Infants, young children and pregnant women have the greatest risk of lead exposure.
  • Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
  • During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother, which may affect brain development of the unborn child.
  • Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.
  • Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead, more than healthy adults. Lead can be stored in the bones, and released later in life.

 Sources of Lead in Drinking Water

  • Lead service Lines
    Service lines, which connect the water main in the street to household plumbing, are owned by the property owner and were often made of lead until the mid -1940’s. Water leaving the treatment plant does not contain lead. Older properties may still have lead service lines.

 Service Line

  • Lead solder
    This connects pipes in household plumbing. In 1987, lead solder was banned from use in household plumbing. If your house was built before 1987, your plumbing may have lead solder.
  • Brass faucets, valves or fittings
    Almost all faucets, valves and fittings have brass components. Until 2014, brass faucets and fittings sold in the U.S. could contain up to 8 percent lead and still be labeled “lead-free”. Effective January 2014, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act specifies that these materials may not contain more than 0.25 percent lead.
  • Grounding of household electric to plumbing                                                                 Grounding of household electrical service to plumbing was common practice until recent years. This grounding may accelerate the release of lead from plumbing and plumbing fixtures into the water. If your electrical system is grounded to your plumbing, it is recommended to have your electric service properly grounded.

What if my service line is lead?

When a lead service is encountered, the Environmental Protection Agency highly recommends the entire portion containing lead be removed. While the city will be responsible for replacing their portion (the portion upstream of the water shut-off valve), the portion downstream of the water shut-off valve is the responsibility of the customer. To assist these customers, the city has a low interest loan program to finance the removal and replacement of their portion of the water service line.

Links for More Information

Still Have Questions?

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