Lead and Copper in Drinking Water
Citizens Energy Group regularly tests drinking water for lead and copper and takes steps in its treatment process to ensure corrosive elements do not result in elevated levels of lead and copper in customer tap water. Citizens does not have any active water mains containing lead. Rarely, elevated lead levels are found in isolated samples of tap water taken from customer homes with lead service lines or plumbing. Since each home has different plumbing pipes and materials, test results are likely to be different for each home tested for lead. It is important to note that most homes with lead service lines or plumbing do not have elevated levels of lead in the tap water.
The following frequently asked questions can help you limit potential exposure to lead and copper, which have been linked to a variety of adverse health effects. Customers with additional questions related to lead and copper in drinking water can call Citizens at 317-924-3311.
Frequently Asked Questions
About 50,000 homes and businesses built before 1950 in the Indianapolis area may have lead service lines and lead plumbing. Service lines are the water lines that run from the utility’s water main to the customer’s home. These service lines are owned by customers. Some homes built before 1986 may also have lead solder in joints of copper pipe. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of lead pipe or solder that connects the pipe. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the tap water.
High levels of lead in tap water can cause health effects if the lead in the water enters the bloodstream and causes an elevated blood lead level. Most studies show that exposure to lead-contaminated water alone would not be likely to elevate blood lead levels in most adults, even exposure to water with a lead content close to the EPA action level for lead of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Risk will vary, however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. For example, infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water are at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.
In accordance with U.S. EPA regulations, every three years Citizens gathers tap water samples from homes in areas where lead service lines and plumbing are common. The EPA action level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). Citizens is required to notify the public when test results show more than 10% of the homes tested have levels of lead above the 15 ppb action level.
In addition to regular monitoring of water, Citizens takes steps during the water treatment process to ensure corrosive elements do not cause lead to leach out of customer-owned lead service lines and plumbing.
Lead pipes are a dull gray color and scratch easily revealing a shiny surface. Lead solder used to join copper pipes is a silver or gray color. If your house was built before January 1986, you are more likely to have lead-soldered joints. A quick way to identify lead pipe or solder is to use a magnet. If a magnet sticks to the pipe or solder, it is not lead. The most definitive way to determine if your service line and interior plumbing contains lead is to hire a licensed plumber.
You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water, and boiling water will not remove lead. Although our water is treated to minimize the risk of lead, you can reduce your household’s exposure to lead in drinking water by following these six steps:
Flush your tap before drinking or cooking with the water if the water in the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours - The longer the water lies dormant in your home’s plumbing, the more lead it might contain. Flush your tap with cold water for 30 seconds to two minutes before using. To conserve water, catch the running water and use it to water your plants.
Try not to cook with or drink water from the hot water faucet - Hot water has the potential to contain more lead than cold water. When you need hot water, heat cold water on the stove or in the microwave.
Consider using certified lead filters in drinking-water pitchers and on faucets used for drinking and cooking.
Remove loose lead solder and debris from plumbing - In homes in which the plumbing was recently replaced, remove the strainers from each faucet and run the water for 3 to 5 minutes. When replacing or working on pipes, be sure to use materials that are lead-free. Use of lead-based solders has been illegal since 1986.
Check water softener systems - Certain home treatment devices, such as water softeners for example, might increase lead levels in your water. Always consult the device manufacturer for information on potential impacts to your drinking water or household plumbing.
Have an electrician check your wiring – If grounding wires from the electrical system in your home are connected to your plumbing, it can accelerate corrosion. A licensed electrician can determine whether your system is grounded properly. Do not attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
If you are concerned about lead in your tap water and want to find out about having your water tested, contact Citizens at (317) 924-3311. You can also contact EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act Hotline at (800) 427-4701.
Identify and replace lead plumbing and fittings - Install fixtures and fittings that contain 0.25 percent lead or less. Until 2014, brass faucets and fittings sold in the U.S. and labeled "lead-free" could contain up to eight percent lead. Effective January 2014, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act specifies that these materials may not contain more than 0.25 percent lead.
Flush building water systems after periods of minimal or no water usage - Commercial buildings are often vacant during weekends and holidays and experience periods of water stagnation - minimal or no water usage. Water stagnation may cause a reduction in disinfection protection and cause increased bacterial growth in the building pipes. Locate the taps on each floor that are furthest from the floor's water service riser and flush the cold water taps for 10 minutes.
Check water fountains - Water fountains in schools and other commercial buildings may contain lead parts. Specific brands of water fountains contain lead parts or have lead lined water tanks. Since 1988, it has been mandated that water fountains be lead free but older schools may have outdated models. Flush each fountain for one minute or install fountains with automatic flushing devices. Routinely change water fountain filters according to manufacturer’s instructions. Water filters that are not routinely changed can accumulate impurities and promote bacterial growth.
Routinely clean and replace aerators - Particles can collect in the aerator screen located at the tip of faucets. Routinely remove and clean aerators and replace aerators every year.