What Should You Do if You Have a Lead Water Main?

As we’ve seen in our local and national media, the health hazards caused by ingesting lead have become a major cause for concern. When lead is ingested by anyone, it can be harmful, but young children and infants are particularly at risk. Any homeowner that suspect that they are being exposed to lead in the water supply must take immediate action. According to both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), even low level lead exposure can be harmful to heath over an extended period of time. Let’s take a closer look at lead contamination and what steps you can take to solve the problem in your home.

How Can Lead Exposure Affect Your Health?

Exposure to lead has been linked to a number of serious health issues. Studies have shown that it can cause damage to the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Lead poisoning can be especially bad for babies and younger children leading to health problems, such as learning disabilities, impaired heard, stunted growth, and the impairment function and formation of blood cells. Exposure to lead can occur during a short period of time, but most people are exposed to lesser quantities over a longer period of time. This is especially bad because it can be harder to notice the symptoms when the exposure is occurring very gradually. The most common place for lead to enter your home is through the main water supply.

How Can You Tell if There is Lead in Your Water Line?

If you live in a home that was built prior to 1986, it’s likely that you have some lead piping in your home and there may be lead in the water main to the property. There is no need to guess; there are few methods that you can use to confirm if this is the case. If you check your local government website, they may have a map of the various water mains, and you can check if any are made using lead.

At home, you can carry out your own test, locate your water meter, and find the side that is connected to the incoming water supply. If the water main pipe is wrapped, pull back the covering to expose the pipe and scratch at the surface with a penny.

If you can see a dull grey colored metal under the fresh scratch mark, it means that you have a galvanized steel water main for your home. This isn’t a great metal for plumbing, you may need to change it in the future, but the good news is that it doesn’t pose a lead hazard.

If you can see a copper color, this means that you have a copper water main and this is fine too.

If you can see shiny metal surface, then you have a lead water main coming into your home. To confirm this, you could schedule a water test for your home to check for the presence of lead in your water supply.

What Should You do Next?

If you have confirmed that you have a lead water main and your family is ingesting lead, it can be a sobering experience. But, there is no need to feel despair, and there are some things that you can do to limit your exposure and eventually get rid of the lead altogether.

Short Term Measures

The first thing that you need to do is start to limit your exposure to lead laced water immediately by implementing a few strict measures.

Only ever use cold water for drinking and cooking purposes.

Run the faucet for a few minutes each time you need water to allow the concentrated lead deposits in your pipes to flush out and drain away.

Change or clean the aerators in each faucet in your home.

Don’t try to boil your water to remove lead this doesn’t work.

These are only short term solutions, and you need to find a better way to deal with the lead in your mains water on a more permanent basis.

Long Term Measures

The best way to remove lead from your water supply entirely is to install your own whole house water filtration system. The system that you choose must be certified to remove lead, but it’s also advisable to replace the aging lead water main with copper piping. Here are some key things that you need to know about a water main replacement.

  • The homeowner is responsible for the section of water main that runs under their property.
  • The public utility only has responsibility for the water main up to the property line of your home.
  • Getting the water line inspected is a job for a local certified plumber.
  • Replacing the water main line may not be as disruptive as you might imagine because underground pipes can now be replaced using trenchless technology.
  • Always get a written estimate before you allow the work to proceed.

If you install a whole house water filtration system, you can remove lead and a wide variety of other contaminants from your water supply. Changing from a lead water main to a copper system will also help, and you will find that ingesting lead will no longer be a problem in your home. When homeowners take water safety into their own hands, they often find that their water tastes and feels cleaner, giving them a better overall experience.

How Can You Choose the Best Plumber?

It’s always a great idea to choose a local certified plumbing company to replace your lead water main. Choose a company that has a solid reputation, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials and a written estimate for the job. It’s tempting to choose the cheapest plumbing company, but this is typically a mistake. Go with the plumbing company that offers a fair price for the work and make sure they have adequate insurance cover in case anything goes wrong because accidents can happen.

By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.