What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for lead in drinking water?
Lead standards in drinking water are regulated by the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The LCR states that 90 percent of samples analyzed must be less than the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). If more than 10 percent of the samples exceed the action level, a utility is required to take action which may include changes to the water treatment process, replacement of lead service lines, and public outreach. Fairfax Water has been testing for lead in accordance with the LCR since 1992 and has consistently tested below the action level.
Does Fairfax Water 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 provided by Fairfax Water. Since testing began in the early 1990s, Fairfax Water’s levels have tested well within the EPA’s compliance standards. In the most recent Lead and Copper Rule sampling period for Fairfax Water, 100 percent of the samples tested were significantly below the EPA action level of 15 ppb. In fact, during the sampling period, 100 percent of the Fairfax Water samples contained less than 1.5 ppb of lead.
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 materials containing lead (such as paint, dust, and soil), and the amount of water consumed daily. 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.
How does lead get into drinking water?
Although some utilities use source waters that contain lead, Fairfax Water’s water sources (the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir) do not contain lead. Lead in drinking water can also come from pipes and valves within the distribution system. Fairfax Water’s distribution system does not contain lead pipe as we have made an extensive effort to identify and replace any lead service connections in the older areas of our system.
Another source of lead in drinking water is household plumbing. In 1986, lead was banned from being used in pipe and solder for drinking water systems. In older homes, where lead is present in pipe and solder connections, it may dissolve into the water after the water sits for long periods of time. Some household plumbing components may contain a small amount of lead and can contribute to lead concentrations at the tap.
What is Fairfax Water doing to minimize lead exposure from my plumbing system?
Fairfax Water adds a corrosion inhibitor to help prevent lead from leaching into your drinking water. We have been using a phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor for over a decade. Adjustments are made to the finished water pH during the treatment process to minimize corrosion from household 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.
Install a water filter. If you choose to do so, follow these three important suggestions:
Choose one designed for the specific filtration desired, such as lead.
Make sure the filter is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org).
Maintain the filter as directed by the manufacturer.
How do I have the water in my home tested?
Fairfax Water’s certified drinking water laboratory does offer lead testing to its customers for a fee. To make arrangements to have your water tested for lead, contact our Customer Service Department at 703-698-5800, TTY 711. Independent certified laboratories are also available and a list of these laboratories may be found on the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services website or by calling 1-866-493-1087, 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 February 2016):
- Fairfax County Lead Information
- VDH - Parent Fact Sheet
- EPA - Protect Your Family from Lead Exposure
- CDC - Lead Tips
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.