As a direct response to heightened consumer concerns about the presence of lead in drinking water, the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has requested that public water systems enhance their public outreach efforts for Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) related information. In response to that request, Sacramento Suburban Water District (District) has compiled the information presented on this web page to cover the suggested elements of that public outreach effort. The following is intended to provide District customers with an overview of:
- Occurrence and health effects from ingesting lead
- District compliance with the LCR
- The District’s Lead and Copper Sampling Program
- LCR selection criteria and discussion
- Other risk factors
- Sampling for lead and copper
- Steps you can to reduce your exposure to lead (and copper) in drinking water
Occurrence and Health Effects From Ingesting Lead
Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food and water as well as certain types of pottery, porcelain and pewter. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys.
The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that will not harm adults can slow the mental and physical development of growing bodies. In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination, such as dirt and dust that rarely affect an adult. It is important to wash children's hands and toys often, and to try to make sure that they do not put anything other than food in their mouths.
District Compliance With the LCR
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and DDW consider public water systems to be in compliance if the laboratory results for 90% of the samples collected (90th percentile) are below 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead and 1.3 parts per million (ppm) for copper. The District’s most recent lead and copper sampling was completed in September 2016. Laboratory data indicate that the corresponding 90th percentile results for lead (@ less than 5 ppb; i.e. not detected) and copper (@ 0.230 ppm) were well below their regulatory thresholds.
The District’s Lead and Copper Sampling Program
Every three years, in accordance with Lead and Copper Rule monitoring requirements, the District works with a select group of at least 50 customers to conduct lead and copper sampling. Each of those customers collects a sample from the cold water tap in their kitchen or bathroom and submits it to the District for analysis of lead and copper by a state-certified laboratory. The laboratory results of all customer samples are collectively used to determine compliance for the water system overall.
LCR Selection Criteria and Discussion
Regulatory criteria specified by USEPA and DDW are used to select the premises that participate in the District’s Lead and Copper Sampling Program. While other factors may contribute to elevated levels of lead and/or copper in the tap water at a home or business, regulatory criteria have designated single family homes having one or more of the following as preferred LCR sampling locations:
- Lead pipes
- Lead service lines
- Copper pipes with lead solder installed between 1983 and 1986
Water with corrosive properties that stays in contact with any of the above materials for a period of time has the potential to dissolve minute amounts of lead or copper from those materials.
Please Note! There is no evidence in District records that lead service lines were installed anywhere in the system. Furthermore, District field staff has never encountered any lead service lines in the system.
Other Risk Factors
Increased levels of lead and/or copper in tap water may also occur at homes or businesses with water treatment systems (such as softeners) that change the chemistry of the water provided by the District. Also, old plumbing fixtures and some newer, especially foreign-made fixtures not having a National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF) 61 rating may also increase the level of either metal in tap water.
Sampling for Lead and Copper
Customers (with any of the potential risk factors mentioned above) that are concerned about lead and/or copper levels in their tap water may wish to have it tested by a state-certified laboratory.
A laboratory may be found by searching the Yellow Pages or internet for one or more of the following words: “Sacramento Drinking Water Laboratory.”
Customers who would like additional information about sampling procedures and having their water tested can call USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791, or visit the EPA website to download the Home Water Testing PDF document.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water
If laboratory testing indicates that the drinking water drawn from a tap in your home contains lead above 15 ppb, DDW recommends taking the following precautions:
Run your water to flush out lead. Let the water run from the cold water tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using it for drinking or cooking any time the water in a faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. If your house has a lead service line to the water main, you may have to flush the water for a longer time, perhaps one minute, before drinking. Flushing tap water is a simple and inexpensive measure you can take to protect your family's health. To conserve water, fill a couple of bottles for drinking water after flushing the tap and, whenever possible, use the first flush water to wash the dishes or water the plants.
Use cold water for drinking and cooking. Do not drink, prepare baby formula or cook with water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve lead and other metals more quickly than cold water. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap and heat it on the stove.
Check your plumbing and fixtures. Remove the faucet strainers from all taps then flush the hot and cold water for 3 to 5 minutes each. This will remove debris such as loose lead solder from your home’s plumbing system. Lead solder looks dull gray, and is relatively soft and shiny when scratched with a key.
Check your wiring. Grounding your home’s electrical system to your water pipes may increase the chance of corrosion. Check with a licensed electrician to determine if your wiring can be grounded elsewhere. DO NOT attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.
Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. You can purchase bottled water for drinking and cooking, or purchase or lease a home treatment device. All of the devices require periodic maintenance and replacement. Be sure to check the actual performance of a specific home treatment device before and after installing the unit.