What We Do
Understanding Lead and Water
Drinking water is essentially lead-free in the distribution system and prior to entering your individual water service pipe. Lead sources may be found between a water service pipe and household taps.
Minimizing lead exposure is the shared responsibility of DC Water and individual residents. Pregnant women and children under age six should use filtered tap water for drinking and cooking until all sources of lead in drinking water have been removed.What you need to know
- Lead is a heavy metal that can enter drinking water from the corrosion of pipes and plumbing materials.
- Exposure to lead is a public health risk, especially for pregnant women and children under age six.
- The concentration of lead in drinking water varies among homes in the District of Columbia.
- Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources.
- Infants, young children and pregnant women have the greatest risk of lead exposure.
- Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
- During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.
- Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.
- Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead, more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life.
- Lead service pipe
This is the pipe that connects the water main in the street to your household plumbing. The service pipe is owned by the property owner. However, under certain conditions, DC Water is authorized to repair, maintain or renew the portion of the service pipe in public space. The maintenance of the portion of the service pipe on private property is the exclusive responsibility of the property owner. A "partial" lead service pipe replacement is where a portion of the service pipe is replaced, but a portion made of lead remains in public or private space.
Lead service pipes were installed until the mid-1950s.
- Lead solder
This connects pipes in household plumbing. In 1987, lead solder was banned from use in household plumbing. If your house was built before 1987, your plumbing may have lead solder.
- Brass faucets, valves or fittings
Almost all faucets, valves and fittings have brass components. Until 2014, brass faucets and fittings sold in the United States that are labeled "lead-free" may contain up to eight percent lead.
- Galvanized iron pipes
Household galvanized pipes are old, corroded pipes that were installed in many homes before the 1960s. These pipes can release lead in water if the property has, or previously had, a lead service pipe. Galvanized pipes are made with a protective layer of zinc. However, the zinc layer erodes over time and results in corrosion. When lead is released from a lead service pipe and passes through galvanized plumbing (particularly over decades of use), lead can accumulate on the inside, corroded walls of this plumbing.
Lead release from galvanized pipes can vary from home to home and can continue to occur even after a lead service pipe is replaced. Galvanized pipes can cause other water quality problems, such as low water pressure and discolored water. For additional information on household plumbing, click here
- Responsible for monitoring drinking water quality in the distribution system and compliance with the EPA Lead and Copper Rule.
- Conducts regulatory and voluntary lead monitoring and reports results to EPA Region III.
- Conducts public outreach and education.
- Participates in national research studies.
- Responsible for drinking water treatment.
- Responsible for corrosion control treatment to minimize pipe corrosion throughout the distribution system and in customer households.
- Monitors drinking water quality and lead levels as water leaves the treatment plant and reports results to EPA Region III.
- Responsible for water service pipes and household plumbing.
- Responsible for ensuring household water quality and minimizing lead exposure, including testing water for lead, flushing household plumbing, and if necessary, using a water filter.
- Enforces the District's lead laws to keep housing and child-care facilities safe.
- Provides lead in water monitoring results in District public schools - click here
- Works with the families of children whose blood tests show elevated levels of lead.
- Enforces compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule in the District of Columbia.
- Provides technical assistance to Washington Aqueduct and DC Water.
- Reviews treatment processes, monitoring plans and results to determine compliance with Lead and Copper Rule.
- Issues violations for noncompliance and requires actions to achieve compliance.
- Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program develops programs and policies to prevent lead poisoning.
- Educates the public and health-care providers about childhood lead poisoning.
- Provides funding to state and local health departments.
- Supports research to determine the effectiveness of prevention efforts at federal, state and local levels.