Lead and Copper
Lead and copper in drinking water is a topic of important national discussion. Lead is a naturally occurring soft metal used in a wide range of products and can be found throughout the environment and home. Possible sources of lead include flaking of lead-based paint, gasoline, consumer products, the soil, hobbies, and plumbing. Lead and copper in drinking water are primarily caused by leaching (discharging) from plumbing materials containing lead or copper in home plumbing or service lines.
Lead in Drinking Water:
Lead has seen an increased amount of attention and oversight due to adverse health affects and issues other US cities have had concerning lead in drinking water. Although Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities delivers customers lead-free water, lead can get into water as it sits or passes through internal plumbing systems or fixtures that contain lead. Older homes are more likely to have plumbing systems that contain lead.
The most common sources of lead in drinking water come from:
- Lead service lines are believed to be a large contributory of lead in drinking water. The use of lead service lines was banned by a federal amendment in 1986, but in Salt Lake City’s experience:
- Homes built before 1930 are more likely to have a lead service line.
- Homes built between 1930 and 1959 are less likely to have a lead service line.
- Homes built between 1960 and 1986 are least likely to have a lead service line.
- Copper pipes connected with solder containing lead prior to 1987. Solder may have been used for any plumbing in the house including distribution lines, fixtures, or service lines.
- Brass faucets and fixtures installed before 2014.
What is a lead service line (LSL)?
A service line is the piping that connects your interior plumbing to the City water main. If it contains lead piping, it is considered to be a lead service line.
- Most of our customers share this service line with the City; typically, from the meter to the house is the homeowner’s responsibility and from the meter to the main is the City’s responsibility. The City’s policy it to remove any known city-owned lead service lines, however much is unknown about the customer-owned service line material.
Do I have a lead service line?
You can inspect your service line to identify lead by taking the following steps:
- Step by step guide: Identifying lead service line
- Purchase a swab kit to identify lead piping
- Additional tips to identify your service line (add hyper link)
- Identify the year your home was built here
- 1929 and older are most likely to contain lead service lines
- 1930 to 1959 are less likely to have a lead service line
- 1960 to 1986 are least likely to have a lead service line
- 1987 and newer should not have lead service line
- Identify the year your home was built here
- Testing your water for lead: To have your home’s water tested please see this list of state-certified labs
Click buttons below for more information:
Prevention of Lead and Copper in Drinking Water
To control lead and copper in drinking water, in 1991 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Lead and Copper Rule. Under the EPA Lead and Copper Rule, public water systems take part in annual to triennial lead and copper sampling and analysis from high-risk homes. These high-risk homes are known to contain lead and/or copper pipes and lead solder, which is more likely to contribute to elevated lead levels. These homes represent a worst-case scenario for lead and copper in water. Due to the high quality of our water, SLC Public Utilities is on the triennial (three year) schedule. Our 2021 results for lead and copper were very similar to our historical levels and in line with those across the state.
Recent lead updates to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA):
- As of January 2014, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act made it illegal to install any pipe, or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, during the installation or repair of a public water system or customer’s drinking water plumbing unless it meets the EPA’s definition of “lead-free”.
- In December 2020 the EPA finalized a major update of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) set to be published on 12/16/2021 with most requirements to be met by 2024. Revisions to the LCR will require water systems to perform more oversight which may include:
- The development of a lead service line inventory, this will include both public and private sides of the service line and will be publicly available.
- The development of a lead service line replacement plan with an emphasis on age of infrastructure and to prioritize communities at highest risk, such as children and disadvantaged communities.
- Perform sampling for lead at K- 8th grade schools and childcare facilities over a 5-year period.
- Oversight and review of Corrosion Control Treatments.
- Updates to public notifications and outreach requirements.
- Updates to tap sampling procedures for compliance.
- Additional follow-up procedures for compliance sample exceedances.
- On December 16, 2021, EPA announced that the Revisions to the LCR will go into effect to support near-term development of actions to reduce lead in drinking water. After thorough review of the rule, the EPA concluded that there are significant opportunities to improve the LCRR rule. Recognizing this opportunity, the EPA will develop a new proposed rulemaking to strengthen key elements of the rule. EPA anticipates finalizing the forthcoming Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) prior to October 16, 2024. For more information visit: Review of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) | US EPA.
Salt Lake City is serious about protecting our source waters as the first stage of treatment. Clean water at the start means higher quality water from your tap. We regularly monitor our source waters in the nearby Wasatch Mountains and groundwater, and we routinely update our source protection plans. We are fortunate that due to these protections and high-quality drinking water sources, we have not detected lead in the distribution system that feeds drinking water to homes. Furthermore, SLC Public Utilities removed lead water main pipes from the drinking water distribution system many years ago. However, we do not control the materials used in household plumbing components and private service lines.
Health Impacts of Lead and Copper
Identifying and controlling sources of lead and copper in the home and drinking water is important for public health. Exposure to lead in drinking water can cause serious health effects in all age groups. Infants and children can have decreases in IQ and attention span. Lead exposure can lead to new learning and behavior problems or exacerbate existing learning and behavior problems. The children of women who are exposed to lead before or during pregnancy can have increased risk of these adverse health effects. Adults can have increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney, or nervous system problems.
Salt Lake City’s Lead and Copper Program for Drinking Water in Homes
Salt Lake City will be performing Lead and Copper sampling for drinking water in homes again in 2024 and will be requesting volunteers with qualifying residence.
For more information on the program or any questions please contact Dustin White, 801-483-6867 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How Can I Reduce Exposure to Lead from Drinking Water?
There are several steps that you can take to reduce exposure to lead and copper from drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you:
► Run your water to flush out lead and copper. The longer water sits in your home piping; the more lead and copper may leach from lead and copper-containing pipes and fixtures. Before drinking, flush your pipes for several minutes by running your tap, taking a shower, doing laundry, or a load of dishes. This will bring in freshwater from the distribution system.
► Use cold water to cook and to prepare baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead and copper dissolve more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
► Identify and replace lead service lines and plumbing fixtures that contain lead. Lead service lines have been identified as a large contributor to lead in drinking water nationwide, replacing these old water lines can help reduce exposure to lead. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free” may contribute lead to a home’s drinking water. The law currently allows pipes, fittings, and fixtures with up to 0.25 percent (25%) weighted average of lead to be identified as lead-free. Plumbing materials that are lead-free may be identified by looking for lead-free certification marks.
► Consider using a filter certified for lead removal. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead. Verify the claims of manufacturers by checking with independent certifying organizations that provide lists of treatment devices that they have certified. Remember, boiling water DOES NOT remove lead from water.
► Regularly clean faucet aerators. Aerators, the screens at the end of faucets, can collect debris. Rinse out collected materials to reduce debris accumulation.
► Use an alternative source. If lead is identified in your home, until the concentration of lead in drinking water is mitigated, you should use a different source of drinking water (i.e. bottled water).
More Information on Lead and Copper
For more information on lead and copper in homes and what you can do to reduce exposure, please refer to the following: