Residents Can Get a Free Lead Test

DC Water offers annual free lead testing for residential customers. Lead test kits are mailed to customer households and residents are responsible for collecting water samples. The kit includes two sample bottles, detailed sampling instructions, and information and a questionnaire about plumbing materials. These water samples provide a snapshot of the water quality in your pipes at the moment of collection, which can indicate potential sources of lead such as household plumbing, fixtures, and service pipes. In other words, the results from these lead test kits are used to determine the existence (or presence) of a lead source in the service line or plumbing.  Water test results of zero or very low lead indicate either there is no significant source of lead, the lead sources did not release into the water at the time of sampling, or the water did not stagnate in the pipes (metals release into the water when it sits in the pipe for extended periods of time). DC Water will also work with customers to help identify if the service line coming into the home is made of lead.  The questionnaire provided with the kit and pictures sent in can identify the presence of a lead service line coming into the home, if the pipe is visible.

Lead service pipes or plumbing with lead deposits may release metal particles containing lead at any time, particularly after a physical disturbance of pipes such as faucet replacements. These releases cause variability of the lead concentrations in water samples from the same tap, and thus, the results of your samples should not be interpreted as the constant level of lead in your water at all times. Until residents are certain there are no sources of lead on their property, they should follow these steps to minimize potential lead exposure. To identify whether your household has a potential source of lead, follow our guide, contact a licensed plumber, or email lead@dcwater.com.

DC Water provides lead test results approximately four to six weeks after samples are delivered to the laboratory. DC Water mails results with a letter describing sources and health effects of lead, and methods to minimize lead in water. Results are posted to your DC Water account, and the other information is available on the DC Water website.

To request a free lead test kit, contact the Drinking Water Division at 202-612-3440 or email leadtest@dcwater.com.  Most lead test kits are provided to single family households. Multi-family households are often unable to meet the water stagnation requirements in all building units. However, if you are a tenant or owner/occupant of a unit, you may request a test kit directly from DC Water, or send a letter to the owner of your unit to request a test kit.

Independent, certified labs in the Washington metro area also provide water testing for a fee. To find a certified laboratory, visit the EPA’s laboratory certification page.  These local labs may provide water quality testing:

  • Environmental Testing Laboratory, Inc.
    (301) 932-4775
    This lab can drop off kits for collection and the client can ship back or deliver.
    Parameters they test for: bacteria, metals, inorganics and secondary contaminants.
  • Water Testing Labs of Maryland 
    301-932-4775
    This lab provides test kits in which the resident can sample and send back to the main lab in Stevensville, MD. They do not offer in-home sampling services.
    They do test for bacteria as well as many otherparameters. http://www.wtlmd.com/wastewater-testing-pricing-maryland-md-va-dc-de.php
  • Chesapeake Environmental Lab
    (800) 300-8378
    They do not provide test kits, but they will visit the resident’s home for a service fee.
    Parameters they test: Arsenic, Bacteria, Cadmium, Copper, Fluoride, Iron, Lead, Nitrate, Radium, Sulfur, Alkalinity, Fecal Coliform, Oil & Grease, Ortho Phosphorous, Ammonia, E.coli, TDS, Total Phosphorous, BOD, Nitrate, TKN, TPH, Chlorides, Nitrite, and TSS.
  • AMA Analytical Services, Inc.
    (800) 346-0961
    This lab does not provide in-home sampling services nor do they provide test kits. They request the resident to send or deliver a 1L sample to their lab in Lanham, MD.
    Parameters they test: Lead and Copper

District Department of General Services provides lead monitoring results for drinking water in District public schools - results available here.

Household Lead Profiles

A lead profile can help identify locations and sources of lead in household drinking water. Sources of lead may include plumbing fixtures, lead solder, or a water service pipe. Typically, profiles are conducted in homes that have had a recent water sample with elevated levels of lead. DC Water investigates these cases further to determine causes for unusually high lead levels and consequently share findings with customers.

Lead profiles involve a plumbing survey and water sampling. During a plumbing survey, a DC Water technician inspects the water service connection and household plumbing, and systematically collects samples to determine the composition of pipes and fixtures in the house. The technician collects over a dozen samples to assess the presence of lead in water in different sections of plumbing at that time to best identify possible sources of lead throughout the house.