Salt Lake City

Public Utilities

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Lead and Copper

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.

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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 2018 results for lead and copper were very similar to our historical levels and in line with those across the state.

We are 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 Sampling Program for Drinking Water in Homes

This year, 2021, we will be performing our triennial lead and copper sampling and analysis from high-risk homes. To meet the EPA Lead and Copper Rule criteria, your home must have original plumbing that includes lead and/or copper plumbing. If your home qualifies, the program includes free testing of the water in your home and a copy of the official laboratory report. Please note, this program does not apply to commercial or business structures.

Thank you for your interest in our Copper and Lead Sampling Program. We have had an excellent response and have filled all volunteer slots for this round of testing. We will conduct more sampling in 2024. We encourage you, however, to take the survey by clicking here to assist us in creating an inventory of possible lead and copper in home plumbing systems.

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 plumbing fixtures that contain 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:

Salt Lake County Health Department-Where Lead is Found

Salt Lake County-Drinking Water

CDC-Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

EPA-Sources of Lead in Drinking Water