Lead FAQs

Print
Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

How can I reduce my exposure to lead in my drinking water? 

The only way to know with certainty if you have lead at the tap is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. You can arrange for your own sampling to be done by an accredited lab at your own cost. 

Residents can be exposed to higher lead levels from stagnant water that sits in a home’s lead pipes.  If water in the pipes is not used for several hours or days (such as overnight, during the work day, or while on a vacation) lead levels can increase in the water, for those who have lead service lines.  Running cold water first thing in the morning or any time your plumbing hasn’t been used for a number of hours (the U.S. EPA recommends six hours or more) can reduce risks to lead exposure.  There are several ways to do this:

  • Run cold water in all faucets for five minutes or more
  • Flush all toilets
  • Start a load of laundry

Lead from drinking water is not well-absorbed through the skin and is not taken in through breathing.  Therefore, exposure to lead from dishwashing, showering, bathing, or any cleaning is not a concern.   

Make sure you run cold water for at least five minutes total before drinking or cooking with any of the water from the tap.  Using hot water increases the leaching of lead from pipes.  It is recommended to use only cold water from the tap for cooking and consumption.   

Another way to reduce risks of lead exposure is to routinely clean or replace faucet aerators (screens). Sediment and metals can collect in the screen located at the tip of your faucets.  New screens are generally available at local hardware stores.   

A more permanent solution to address lead issues with your water is to remove sources of lead entering your water.  If your service line is lead-based, then you can have that replaced. Also, if there are any other pipes, fittings, or faucets in your home containing lead; you can have them replaced with the appropriate materials.  Call a licensed plumber to see what you need to replace to get the lead fittings out of your home.  

When replacing plumbing, look for National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) labels.  Or look for a statement on the packaging that the device meets the federal definition of “lead-free.”

 

How can lead get into my drinking water? 

Lead is rarely found in source water. When treated water leaves the City’s water treatment plant, it does not contain lead.  The most common way for lead to get into drinking water is when the metal leaches into water over time through corrosion of a lead water service line. Lead can also be leached from lead-based solder on copper pipe joints and brass faucets, fittings, and valves.  

Corrosion is more likely if the water has a low pH (is acidic) or if the alkalinity is too low (pH in water cannot be stabilized).  The pH and alkalinity (among many other factors in managing the water chemistry) are controlled by the City Water Treatment Plant operators, who are on duty 24 hours a day. 

Your City of Ames water utility has been treating water to control corrosiveness for decades.  Even homes with lead pipes have built up a preventative coating around the inside of the pipes from the corrosion treatment, water treatment, and dissolved minerals; making a protective barrier between any metal in the plumbing and the water.

With all that the City does to protect the drinking water, residents with lead service lines can still be exposed to higher lead levels from stagnant water that sits in a home’s plumbing.  If water in the pipes is not used for several hours or days (such as overnight, during the work day, or while on a vacation) lead levels can increase in the water, for those who have lead service lines.

Even residents who do not have lead service lines can be at risk for lead exposure.  Plumbing fixtures like faucets, valves, and lead-based solder can contain small amounts of lead.

 

How does the City of Ames prevent lead from entering the water supply? 

Since lead and copper are regulated, the City is required to control the corrosiveness of our water.  The pH and alkalinity of Ames water is maintained at a level which helps build a protective coating on the inside of pipes so lead and copper cannot leach into the water.  Once this thin coating forms, there is a protective barrier between any metal in the plumbing and the water.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the City to monitor the drinking water in the distribution system for lead and copper.  Every three years, the Water & Pollution Control Laboratory tests targeted (homes known to possess lead service lines or that have copper plumbing/lead solder) residences for lead and copper levels.  Of all of the samples taken, at least 90% must be less than 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water.  The City of Ames water has never exceeded this action level.  The results of the lead and copper testing are submitted at the state level to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  A report is sent to the residents informing them of the results for their homes.  The results are also published in our annual Consumer Confidence Report.

 

How do I know if my drinking water has lead in it? 

Lead has no smell, color, or distinct taste.  A plumber can identify whether your service line is made of lead, or you can look at the line entering your home.  Lead is soft and easily dented when scraped with a knife.  If you have a lead service line or other lead-based materials in your plumbing, you can have your water tested for lead content.  The City of Ames water utility tests at-risk homes for lead and copper levels every three years and you can request to be put on the list to be tested if you have a known lead service line or copper plumbing with lead solder.  Alternately, you can arrange for your own sampling to be done by an accredited lab at your own cost. The only way to know with certainty if you have lead at the tap is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory.  This may cost a fee, depending on the lab.

The City has records of residences with lead service lines, though many service lines have been updated without the City being notified. Less than 5% of Ames residences are on record as having lead service lines, although the actual number is likely lower than that due to unreported service line upgrades.

 

Is my home at risk for lead plumbing?

In the Ames community, there are a small number of lead pipes (service lines) that connect older homes to the utility water main in homes built before 1986.  A plumber can identify whether your service line is made of lead, or you can look at the lines entering your home.  Lead is soft and easily dented when scraped with a knife.

lead pipe with scrape1
Photo courtesy of the U.S. EPA

The City has records of residences with lead service lines, though many service lines have been updated without the City being notified.  Less than 5% of Ames residences are on record as having lead service lines, although the actual number is likely lower than that due to unreported service line upgrades.  

 

Quick Facts About Lead

  • Lead has never been found in Ames' source water or treated water entering the distribution system.
  • Lead in drinking water has no taste, smell, or color.  You cannot tell by looking at water whether or not it contains lead.
  • Lead leaches into water over time due to corrosion in a home’s lead water pipes.
  • The City of Ames is required to control our water stability to prevent lead and copper leaching.
  • Every three years the City of Ames is required to test our water at a selected number of high-risk homes for lead and copper. We report the findings to the Iowa DNR as well as in our annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). 
  • If you are concerned about being exposed to lead, your doctor can conduct a blood test to measure your blood lead level.
  • Just because you have lead pipes, does not mean you are being poisoned. 
  • The City keeps the water chemically managed, assisting in creating a protective coating to help keep lead from leaching into the water.
  • In Ames, the homeowner owns and is responsible for all of their service line.
  • Homeowners can have their water tested for lead by a third-party laboratory.
  • Boiling water DOES NOT reduce lead risks.  In fact, prolong boiling can concentrate lead.
  • Identifying and replacing plumbing fixtures that contain lead can greatly reduce your risks of being exposed to lead. The City of Ames uses water meters that meet the federal definition of "lead free."
  • The greatest exposure to lead is through ingesting and breathing in lead paint chips and dust.
  • A licensed plumber can identify whether your service line is made of lead or if you have lead-based plumbing fixtures.
  • Cutting into lead pipes can increase risks of lead poisoning.  Any service line being replaced should be replaced in its entirety. All City of Ames meters are lead-free.
  • The U.S. EPA sets an action level for lead in drinking water at 15 micrograms per liter.  At least 90% of samples the City takes must be less than 15 micrograms per liter.  City of Ames municipal water has never exceeded this action level.
  • Lead dissolves more quickly in hot water.  It is recommended to never use hot tap water for baby formula, cooking, or drinks.
  • Rusty water does not equate to lead in the water. Rusty water caused by a disruption in the distribution system (often from water main breaks or repairs) does not have lead in it from the distribution system.  Rusty water is safe to drink.  The City does not recommend doing laundry until your water runs clear.  Also to keep the rusty water out of your water heater, the City recommends not using your hot tap water when there is rusty water in your area.
  • Even residents who do not have lead service lines can be at risk for lead exposure.  Plumbing fixtures like faucets, valves, and lead-based solder can contain small amounts of lead.  There are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk to lead exposure.

Free viewers are required for some of the attached documents.
They can be downloaded by clicking on the icons below.

Acrobat Reader Download Acrobat Reader Flash Player Download Flash Player Windows Media Player Download Windows Media Player Microsoft Silverlight Download Microsoft Silverlight Word Viewer Download Word Viewer Excel Viewer Download Excel Viewer PowerPoint Viewer Download PowerPoint Viewer