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Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water.
AWWA has created a new whiteboard explainer animation that helps consumers understand where lead comes from, how it gets into water, and what households can do to keep their water lead-safe. Please note that the District has not found any lead service lines from our water mains to the meters.
The most common source of lead exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978.
Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, lead also can be found in some household plumbing materials and some water service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 10 to 20% of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60% of their exposure to lead from drinking water.
Lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects when people are exposed to it. These effects may include increases in the blood pressure of some adults; delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children; and, deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children.
Lead is uncommonly found naturally in source water. More commonly, lead leaches into water over time through corrosion-a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. Lead service lines and pipes have not been found to be used in construction in the District, so sources of lead in our drinking water are primarily limited to solder and fixtures. The amount of lead in your water depends on the types and amounts of minerals in the water, how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity, and water temperature.
The EPA has set an Action Level for lead at 15 micrograms per liter (or parts per billion). At least 90% of samples taken (the 90th percentile) must be less than 15 micrograms per liter. The Action Level for copper is 1.3 milligrams per liter (or parts per million).
In accordance with the Lead and Copper Rule, Soquel Creek Water District has been regularly testing the water at a selected number of higher-risk homes since 1993 and has never exceeded the Action Level. These homes were constructed using copper pipes with lead solder prior to the 1986 federal ban on lead solder. Our monitoring is conducted in accordance with regulatory requirements and guidance.
The 90th percentile results of the District’s most recent monitoring (2016) were well below the Action Levels. The 90th percentile lead was not detected at or above the State detection level (5 micrograms per liter). The 90th percentile copper concentration was 0.37 milligrams per liter. A total of 31 homes were tested. Lead was detected above the State detection level in only one of the 31 samples (at 7.9 micrograms per liter), and none of the copper concentrations from the 31 homes were above the Action Level.
If the Action Level is exceeded, water utilities are required to notify all of its customers and provide instructions on what to do to limit lead exposure as required by the EPA. In addition, the EPA requires water systems to control the corrosiveness of their water if the level of lead at home taps exceeds the Action Level.
For more information, the American Water Works Association has created a video on how water utilities look for lead and copper in the water supply.
If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead in its pipes or fittings, you may want to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or absent. For more information on testing your water, contact a drinking water laboratory. Here are three in our area:
For more information, please visit the California Division of Drinking Water’s Lead Sampling in Drinking Water for Individual Homeowners webpage.
There are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
Children at risk of exposure to lead should be tested. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine your child’s blood-lead level.
As a result of a permit action by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water, school administrators may request that their public water system collect and analyze up to five water samples at each Kindergarten through 12 school served by the water system. The public water system and/or the State Water Resources Control Board can also provide technical assistance if an elevated lead sample site is found. Schools can only request through October 2019 for a one-time sampling.