WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LEAD IN DRINKING WATER
The Metropolitan District (MDC) performs extensive water quality testing, from source to tap, to ensure that MDC potable water is as free of lead as possible and meets all State and Federal drinking water quality standards.
Lead has not been detected in any of the MDC’s water supply reservoirs.
The MDC is in compliance with all current State and Federal EPA requirements for lead sampling, testing, and reporting.
MDC has never installed lead water service lines (the lines between the MDC water mains and the customer) in its service area.
Internal household plumbing, which previously contained lead based solder, and brass plumbing fixtures with lead in the brass, are the most likely source of lead within the residential water at a customer’s tap.
The MDC treats the drinking water to make it less corrosive to pipes and plumbing inside your home or business, to minimize the possibility of lead leaching into the drinking water.
The MDC has consistently maintained the same sources of its raw water supply since its inception by special act of the legislature in 1929.
FLINT MICHIGAN and LEAD ISSUES
For many years, Flint, Michigan accessed treated water from Lake Huron through the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. In an effort to save money, while arrangement for a new water supplier was pending, Flint switched from being a water purchaser to a water producer, using the Flint River as its primary water source. The Flint River is a water body that receives discharges from municipal sewage and industrial waste water treatment plants and its water is polluted and very corrosive to pipes and residential plumbing. When the City switched its water supply source to the Flint River – a much less suitable source – it did not take the required steps to manage the water chemistry, or “treat” the water to make it less corrosive to pipes and plumbing. Flint also failed to add chemical corrosion inhibitors designed to help protect pipes and plumbing. In addition, approximately 50% of Flint’s water services lines, located between the City water mains and the customer, were made of lead, further exacerbating the problem.
CONNECTICUT and MDC WATER SUPPLY
All agencies involved in management, treatment, and delivery of drinking water share an obligation to protect public health. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH) Drinking Water Section is the regulatory agency for drinking water in the state of Connecticut, and they provide oversight of water utilities, including MDC. Connecticut is one of only two states that do not allow the use of “Class B” waterbodies as sources for human consumption. “Class B” waters are waters that receive discharges from municipal and/or industrial wastewater treatment systems, such as the Flint River. Only Class A or Aa waterbodies are used as drinking water sources. This protection ensures the highest possible source water quality for Connecticut consumers. The MDC takes its obligation to protect your health seriously. What follows is information about MDC’s source water protection, water treatment and distribution, water quality, sampling and the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, as well as answers to common questions about lead in drinking water.
SOURCE WATER PROTECTION
MDC’s quality drinking water begins with high quality source water collected in large capacity reservoirs surrounded by large tracts of protected forested lands. Source water is untreated water used to supply public drinking water. As a result, MDC reservoirs are Class Aa reservoirs, which is the highest water quality rating in Connecticut. Connecticut is one of only two states which require that surface water used for drinking water be taken only from Class A or Class AA waterbodies, such as the MDC reservoirs.
Link to more information on MDC Watershed Protection.
WATER TREATMENT AND DISTRIBUTION
The next steps in ensuring high quality drinking water occur within our water treatment and distribution operations. Source water is first filtered at one of the MDC’s two water treatment plants. In addition to filtration, all water is disinfected through chlorination, the pH of all treated water is adjusted, fluoride is added per state of CT statutes and the water is treated with an orthophosphate blend to minimize corrosion within distribution system’s piping and household plumbing.
WATER QUALITY SAMPLING
In order to protect the integrity of our potable water system and the public health of our customers, it is the policy of the MDC to conduct more water quality monitoring than the minimum required by state and federal regulation. Exceptional water quality is continually confirmed through the sampling, testing and analysis of MDC’s source water, treated water within the plants and at various distribution sampling points throughout the District’s service area.
The annual MDC Water Quality Report, required by federal and state regulations, provides a summary of water quality and includes information on how the MDC collects, treats and delivers quality drinking water.
Link to MDC Water Quality Reports.
Lead Compliance Test Results
The MDC also collects and analyzes residential and nonprofit organization’s samples if there are any possible water quality concerns within the building.
These tests and others conducted at various consulting laboratories for the MDC confirm daily that the potable water supplied by the MDC meets all State of Connecticut Public Health Code and Federal Environmental Protection Agency standards for water quality.
EPA LEAD AND COPPER RULE
Under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) established in 1991, all water utilities must comply with a number of protocols, including monitoring water quality parameter samples at plants and distribution sites and lead and copper sampling within the distribution system, specifically at customer homes built prior to 1987, when it was most likely that lead solder was used. The results of this sampling can be found in the MDC’s Water Quality Report; and these results demonstrate that MDC is in compliance with the lead and copper rule.
It is understood within the water quality industry that for the optimum corrosion control of lead solubility in a distribution system (in the case of the MDC, specifically within the residential home’s internal plumbing) there are two important parameters in maintaining the lead and copper water quality standards regulated by EPA:
- Consistently maintaining a proper pH in the water leaving the water treatment plants and within the distribution system; and
- Maintaining appropriate Orthophosphate concentrations in the treated potable water for optimized corrosion control within our system, as approved by Connecticut DPH.
To clarify, EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule does not mandate that property owners remove lead pipes or lead joint solder prior to or subsequent to a water utility providing potable water service to a residence. Rather, EPA regulates the water treatment process to minimize the possibility of lead leaching into the drinking water. As the potable water enters the internal plumbing systems of a property, the chemicals introduced at the treatment facility help reduce the likelihood of metals being dissolved into the water (corrosion) within the plumbing. An orthophosphate-polyphosphate blend, which is the corrosion inhibitor used by the MDC, is added at levels approved by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, Drinking Water Section. The addition of the corrosion control blend and the adjustment of the pH of the potable water minimize the leaching of lead from residential plumbing which occurs during periods when the water is stagnant, or not being used, within a residence.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT LEAD IN DRINKING WATER
HOW CAN LEAD GET INTO DRINKING WATER?
The water leaving the MDC’s water treatment plants and distributed through water mains to homes or businesses has virtually no lead in it. Once the drinking water enters a customer’s property, it may come in contact with the piping, solder, faucets or plumbing fixtures which contain lead. While water sits in contact with these plumbing features, small amounts of lead can dissolve into the water. Long periods of stagnation (non-use) of the water within interior plumbing increase the likelihood of this occurrence; therefore, flushing the water faucet until you can feel a temperature change of the cold water minimizes your exposure if there is, in fact, any lead in your plumbing fixtures.
IS MY HOME AT RISK OF HAVING LEAD IN THE WATER?
The Hartford Water Works, which was the predecessor of the MDC, prohibited the use of lead piping in the distribution system in the late 1800’s. Likewise, the MDC, incorporated in 1929, did not approve the use of lead pipe for the connection of water services in its distribution system. As a point of clarification, the MDC maintains the water service line from the water main in the street to the curb; the customer owns the water service line from the curb into their home. Based on historical data and to our knowledge, there are no lead water service lines on the MDC’s side of the distribution system.
The MDC does not inspect or keep records of piping materials or fixtures inside customer’s properties. Homes built before 1987, when the Lead Contamination Control Act (LCCA) went into effect, might contain lead found within brass plumbing fixtures, or lead solder that was used to connect copper pipes. Homes built in or after 1987 are far less likely to have plumbing fixtures or solder that contain lead.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE LEAD PLUMBING?
You cannot taste, smell, or see lead in water. Lead plumbing pipes are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. If you carefully scratch a pipe with a key or coin, the scratched area on a lead pipe will turn a bright silver color. To avoid putting a hole in the pipe, do not use a knife or other sharp instrument to scratch the pipe. Galvanized piping can also be dull gray in color. A strong magnet will typically cling to galvanized pipes, but will not cling to lead pipes or copper plumbing which has the same color as a copper penny.
In some homes, copper or galvanized pipes were connected using lead solder. These connections have a characteristic solder bulb or bubble.
WHAT THE MDC DOES
To minimize lead from leaching into drinking water, the MDC:
- Maintains reservoirs and watershed land in Northwestern Connecticut that are the primary sources of the MDC’s untreated water.
- Treats the water with chemicals that safely reduce the corrosivity of the water which builds up a protective coating inside the pipes. The chemicals and coating that develop can reduce the amount of lead dissolving into water. This corrosion control treatment began in the 1990s and is still in use today.
- Tests the drinking water continually from its treatment plants to ensure the water is not corrosive. We also test the water in the distribution system at various sampling points to ensure it is in compliance with state and federal water quality regulations as the regulations pertain to the water quality parameters (corrosion control requirements).
- Routinely tests for lead in water drawn from residential homes throughout our system in accordance with EPA criteria. Even after sitting in household plumbing overnight, over 90 percent of the water samples meet state and federal standards. After the flushing the building’s water lines, 100 percent of the flushed water samples meet the standards.
- Exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules for frequency of water testing.
- Provides customers annual water quality information, including compliance with the EPA Lead and Copper Rule, through its annual Water Quality Report, which customers receive by mail before the end of June each year. The report covers the analytical monitoring of the drinking water for the previous calendar year.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are several steps you the consumer can take to address potential risks from lead possibly leaching into the water.
- Lead piping is typically only present in older homes, but brass faucets which contain lead can be found in newer homes. A certified plumber can determine with certainty if you have a lead service line, check for lead solders in internal pipes, and replace fixtures which may be a source of lead. Anytime the drinking water has sat idle in a pipe (plumbing of the home) for a period of time i.e., six or more hours, flush the “old water” out of the plumbing by running the water for a few minutes. Let the cold water faucet run until it is as cold as it gets before using it for cooking or drinking. To avoid wasting water, flush out the “old or stagnant water” by taking a shower, flushing the toilet, washing a load of clothes, etc. In the morning, take this two-step approach:
- Wait to make coffee, juice, hot cereal or baby formula first thing in the morning until you flush out the faucet.
- Run the kitchen faucet until the water is cold to your touch (it should only take a few seconds).
- Periodically remove the faucet strainers or aerators and rinse them to remove any trapped debris.
- Not all home treatment devices (filters) can remove lead in water. When purchasing a water treatment device, make sure it is certified under NSF/ANSI 53 to remove lead. Search for certified products at NSF International or Water Quality Association and be leery of inexpensive products that have claims of effectiveness.
- There are multiple well known water filtration pitcher products than can be stored in your refrigerator. However, it is imperative to ensure that you also purchase filters for the pitchers that are designed to remove lead to the greatest extent possible. These filters typically are only necessary for drinking water and food preparation consumption.
- Always use cold water for cooking and drinking, especially when you are mixing formula, drinks, or food for young children. Never use the hot water tap or the hot water faucet to make food, instant coffee, tea, instant soup, cocoa or any other beverage. Do not use the hot water tap to draw water for cooking. Lead leaches from the plumbing faster into hot water than cold water.
- The only way to know with certainty if you have lead at the tap is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. If you are concerned that your family is at risk, the link to a list of certified laboratories in Connecticut is below. Home test kits are also available, but we cannot attest to their accuracy.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Connecticut Department of Public Health – Lead Fact Sheet
Connecticut Department of Public Health – Certified Laboratories
Connecticut Department of Public Health – (860) 509-7333
Environmental Protection Agency – Basic Information about lead in drinking water
Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline Phone: (800) 426-4791
Environmental Protection Agency Water Resource Center: (800) 832-7828
American Water Works Association – Drink Tap
American Association of Pediatrics – Lead in Tap Water Fact Sheet