Lead


What is Lead?
Lead (chemical symbol “Pb”) is a naturally occurring element (soft, gray metal) that is found in the environment, but usually not more than in trace amounts. Lead in drinking water is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Materials that contain lead have frequently been used in the construction of water supply distribution systems and plumbing systems in private homes and other buildings. Until banned by federal law in 1986, and by New Jersey law in February 1997, lead had been used in the solder that connects copper plumbing in household drinking water pipes. Homes built prior to 1940 are likely to contain lead pipes or service connections. Lead is also one of the materials used to make brass plumbing fixtures and submersible pumps. Lead can also be found in paints (prior to 1960) and gasoline (prior to 1978) and is still used in many common products. Typically, lead gets into drinking water from the plumbing and fixtures in the house or building. Corrosive water can increase the amount of lead that dissolves from pipes and solder. Other sources include industrial deposits.

How is Lead tested?
First, to better evaluate the level of potential lead contamination from the plumbing system, a “first draw” (non-flushed) sample should be analyzed for lead.
      A properly collected and preserved (with Nitric Acid) sample must be obtained. The “holding time” (i.e., time which lead must be analyzed after sample collection) is 6 months. There are a few NJDEP certified test methods for arsenic including Atomic Absorption (AA) and Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP). The detection limits vary by method and instrumentation. The test method must achieve a detection limit lower than the Action Level (trigger point at which remedial action is to take place) and NJDEP Ground Water Quality Standard.

What is the current Standard?
Lead is a constituent classified as a “primary” standard and has an Action Level ((AL) - trigger point at which remedial action is to take place) of 15 ppb (ug/L – micrograms per Liter) in a non-flushed sample. For the flushed (raw water) sample collected for compliance with the PWTA the Groundwater Quality Standard is 10 ug/L.

What are the potential Health Effects with ingesting Lead in water?
Potential health effects include kidney and nervous system damage. At low level of exposure, the health effects may include interference in red blood cell chemistry, delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, slight deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and slight increases in blood pressure of adults. Young children, infants, and fetuses appear to be particularly vulnerable to lead poising.

Should I continue to use my water if Lead is found above the MCL?
The answer is no for drinking water consumption. However, in some cases reducing your exposure to lead from drinking water can be achieved by flushing the water from the plumbing pipes for 15-30 seconds or more (noticing a temperature change) before using the water. Also, do not boil water as a method of treatment because this will result in increased lead levels.

What steps can I take to reduce Lead levels in my water?
Short Term:
purchase bottled water.
Long Term: 1.) Connect to public water 2.) Well replacement 3.) Water Treatment: Point of Entry Treatment System (POET) or Point of Use (POU) Treatment System such as corossion control, distillation, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis. If lead is a problem in the home, be sure the water treatment system does not make the water more corrosive as this will cause lead from the plumbing to dissolve into the water. If the water from the cold water faucet has not been used for several hours, let is run to 15-30 seconds (ie. noticing a temperature change) before using it for drinking. Use only cold water for consumption. 4.) Contact you local Health Agency and a Water Treatment Professional.

If you install a water treatment system, be sure to conduct another test after the water has been treated to verify that the system is working effectively.

Where can I go for more information?
Your best help may be your local Health Agency. Also, go to the Helpful Links section of this website.


This information is meant to serve as a basic overview of the material discussed. Always obtain professional advice prior to implementing a plan of action.