Lead Information

OMU Water System & Lead: A General Overview

At OMU, we understand the need for safe and reliable water for our community. We continually monitor our system, test our water supply and comply with regulations and requirements affecting drinking water.

Issues with the discovery of lead in the Flint, Michigan water system have caused concern nationwide. Customers may wonder about lead, lead abatement and lead testing in the Owensboro Municipal Utilities water system.

Whereas OMU has avoided the placement of lead piping and materials in its system since the early mid-1980s, its distribution system does include:

  • Service Connectors. These are 18–24-inch long service connectors running from the main to water meters that contain lead. These were installed according to industry standard in the 1970s and prior. These lead connectors are replaced any time OMU crews expose them in the course of distribution system maintenance and repair activities. Approximately 400 maintenance services are replaced annually as part of the utility’s maintenance and repair programs. OMU estimates that 25% of these are lead.  OMU utilizes the latest construction standards when replacing these lines.
  • Flexible Main Connectors. These are 2-3-foot main connectors running from the larger main to smaller two-inch galvanized mains. These also were installed according to industry standards in the 1970 and are being systematically replaced. There are an estimated 100 such lines in the system, and as these are identified they are replaced. Both types of connectors were installed according to industry standards in the 1970s and are being replaced as they are encountered by OMU crews. OMU utilizes the latest construction standards when replacing these lines.
  • Some cast iron lead joints do contain lead on their outer surface, which is not in contact with the water supplied in our community. Lead is exterior to the joint and does not come into contact with water moving through our system.
  • Leaded brass connectors and fittings were used throughout the OMU system and others across the nation until 2014 when they were addressed in the Lead in Drinking Water Act instituted in 2011. These connectors were used by both private and public entities. Due to pH levels in the OMU system, leaching of lead from these fixtures is not considered a concern or risk.

The major contributing factor in mitigating any lead leaching into the system is the treatment that the water receives at OMU’s drinking water plants. This includes managing the water pH (corrosiveness) and other water quality parameters as well as inclusion of phosphate in OMU’s water treatment process. Phosphate treatment creates coatings on the inside of pipes throughout the system and protects from leaching of lead from the pipes into the water. 

OMU continually reviews and meets the requirements set out in the:

  • Lead and Copper Rule
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Clean Water Act
  • Reduction in Lead in Drinking Water Act

Additional measures

Although it is not required, OMU’s Water Quality Team conducts testing at both of its treatment facilities and within the distribution system. In addition, every three years, OMU works with customers throughout the system to conduct in-home testing as well. OMU has not encountered any elevated lead (at or above the USEPA action level of 15 ppb) results from these tests.

In addition, additional sample sites are being established “downstream” from potential connectors for additional monitoring and testing.

OMU, as an added precaution, has expanded its customer-based testing. 

In addition, a third-party review of OMU’s treatment system confirmed that the amount and type of chemicals used were being administered correctly and at appropriate levels.

Despite the fact our system has not had any abnormal tests, OMU conducted a preliminary inspection of all of its water meters to assist in identifying any other potential issues.

OMU, as an added precaution, has expanded its customer-based testing.

If you have additional questions about your drinking water, please contact us.

Customer service lines

Customer-owned service lines running from the meter into a household or business are the property of the customer and are therefore not maintained by the utility. It is expected that many of these lines, however, have been replaced over time by private contractors and homeowners.