Lead in the Local System

In our community, some of the pipes that connect older homes (e.g., before 1940) to the utility water main could be made from lead. The pipe that connects your household plumbing to the water main in the street is called a service line.

To determine if your home has a lead service line, hire a licensed plumber to inspect the service line. If your home has a lead service line, it is likely that other sources of lead exist in the home as well.

Lead service line concerns

Lead service lines are a health concern because they can be a source of lead in tap water.

Lead can be harmful. It can impact normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, cause deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and increase blood pressure in adults.

If you have a lead service line, the lead from your pipe may leach into water you drink. EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of lead exposure in young children may come from drinking water, and infants raised on mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure from drinking water.

Detecting a lead service line

To determine whether your home has a lead service line, hire a licensed plumber to inspect the service line.

Lead service lines are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. They can be identified easily by carefully scratching them with a key or coin. If the pipe is made of lead, the area you’ve scratched will turn a bright silver color. Do not use a knife or other sharp instrument and take care not to puncture a hole in the pipe.

Lead service lines can be connected to the residential plumbing using solder. They have a characteristic solder “bulb” at the end or a compression fitting or other connector made of galvanized iron or brass/bronze.

If your service line cannot be accessed to determine whether it contains lead, you may have your water tested by a certified laboratory.

Replacing a lead service line

When replacing lead service lines, it is best to replace the entire lead service line.
The surest way to remove concerns about lead from lead service lines is to remove all the lead by removing the entire service line.

Research has shown that at least in the short-term, partial lead service line replacements are not as effective as previously thought.

Even after a full service line replacement, flushing of the service line is required, and may create lead deposits that could persist for weeks or months. Therefore, it is also highly recommended the resident also flush internal plumbing following replacement.