Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lead and Copper in Your Pipes - What You Should Know

Although it is unlikely there are sufficient quantities of lead and copper in your drinking water to cause health problems, your home's plumbing could be depositing lead and copper in your water.

When your water has been sitting in your pipes for several hours—for instance in the morning, or when you return from work or a trip away from home—you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. Run the tap until the water becomes noticeably colder.

Flushing tap water is a simple and inexpensive measure you can take to protect your family’s health. It uses less than one or two gallons of water and costs less than 42 cents per month. To conserve water while flushing, fill bottles for drinking water after you flush the tap and refrigerate. Use first-flush water to wash dishes or water plants.

Try not to cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water dissolves lead deposits in pipes faster than cold water. To heat water for cooking, draw it from the cold tap and heat it on the stove.

Lead soldering was banned in 1986.  If your copper pipes were joined illegally with lead solder, notify the plumber who did the work and request it be replaced with lead-free solder. Lead solder looks dull gray, and when scratched with a key, it appears shiny. If your home was built prior to 1986, have a licensed plumber or private home inspector inspect the lines, or have your water tested for lead and copper levels, and be sure to run your cold water tap for 30 seconds before using it for drinking or food preparation, and use hot water only for washing.

Consumer Confidence Reports on water quality are distributed annually to customers by the Richmond Department of Public Utilities and contain information on lead and copper levels.  Email dpuc@richmondgov.com to receive the latest copy.

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