Lead

Facts About Lead Levels and OCWA’s Water:

Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants because it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies. Lead gets into drinking water mostly as a result of the corrosion of materials that contain lead such as lead piping, lead solder, or brass plumbing fixtures. Drinking water that contains lead can be harmful, especially for young children and pregnant women.

OCWA customers get their water from one of three sources; Lake Ontario, Otisco Lake, or Skaneateles Lake. Ontario and Skaneateles lakes contain no detectable amount of lead. In 2016 Otisco Lake averaged 1.2 micrograms per Liter on lead, which is just above the detection limit.  All three of these source waters are treated to minimize the leaching of lead from piping and fixtures. Waters from both Otisco and Skaneateles Lakes do this by the addition of a corrosion inhibiter Orthophosphate. Lake Ontario water is treated by the adjustment of pH using Caustic Soda.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) rules require water systems to sample water in homes in their distribution systems every three years to demonstrate that corrosion control is working.  The USEPA rules require that water systems identify homes that have the highest potential to leach lead from their plumbing and to sample a representative number of homes from this group.  The Action Level for lead is set at 15 parts per billion (ppb). This means that 90% of the homes tested must have a lead concentration below 15 ppb. OCWA has been testing for lead in accordance with the Lead and Copper Rule put in place in 1991 and has consistently tested well below the action level.  OCWA’s latest round of sampling included 107 houses spread throughout the distribution system.  98.1% of the samples were below the 15 ppb threshold. The results show that our methods of corrosion control are working. OCWA will conduct sampling again in 2019.

OCWA is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. In 1986, lead was banned from being used in pipe and solder for drinking water systems, but in older homes where lead is present in pipe and solder connections it may dissolve into the water after the water sits for long periods of time. In order to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water you may do the following:

  1. Any time the water has been sitting unused for over 6 hours, such as when you first wake up or return from work or school, flush your cold water taps before drinking it for 30 seconds to two minutes or, until the water temperature stays constant.
  2. Use only water from the cold water tap for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Hot water may contain higher levels of lead.
  3. Install a filter that is approved for reducing lead by the National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org) and maintain or replace the filter as directed by the manufacturer.

You can’t see, smell or taste lead in your water. Testing at the tap is the only way to measure lead levels. If you would like your water tested for lead, the New York State Department of Health is currently providing free lead testing to NYS residents under The Free Lead Testing Pilot Program (FLTPP). To learn more about this program, go to https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/lead/free_lead_testing_pilot_program directly or call the State Health Department at (518) 402-7650 to request a free drinking water lead test kit.  Alternatively, you can directly contact a Certified Laboratory where tests may cost in the $20 to $100 per tap range.  A list of certified laboratories can be found at http://www.wadsworth.org/labcert/elap/lead.html , be sure to select one approved for potable water.

For more information on Lead contact the Safe Drinking Water Hotline 1-800-426-4791 or http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead

Or, click on the Water Quality tab above and read OCWA’s latest Water Quality Report.