Lead Safety and Your Water
Lead is not present in water that leaves the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant, or in the water mains running beneath the streets.
When present in tap water, lead typically comes from either the pipe connecting older homes to the water system or from plumbing within the home itself.
Lead in service pipes, plumbing or fixtures can dissolve, especially in hot water, or particles can break off when plumbing is disturbed and end up at the tap.
Toledo uses corrosion controls in the water treatment process to help protect drinking water from lead that may be present in service lines, plumbing or fixtures.
Toledo samples and tests water from private homes with lead service lines and plumbing (considered to be high risk) to ensure our corrosion controls remain effective.
Even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to eight percent lead, so it makes good sense to adopt and follow these practices:
- Run the cold water before use – If present, lead levels are likely at their highest when water has been sitting in the pipe for several hours. Clear this water from pipes by running the cold water before use. Running the cold faucet until water feels colder allows you to draw fresh water from the main.
- Start with cold water for cooking and drinking – Always cook and prepare baby formula with fresh cold water, because hot water dissolves lead more quickly, resulting in higher levels in water.
- Clean aerators – Aerators are small attachments at the tips of faucets which regulate the flow of water. In locations where lead pipes or fixtures are present, small particles of lead can accumulate in aerator screens. It’s a good idea to remove your aerators at least monthly and clean them out.
- If you filter your water –Make sure your filter is certified for lead removal by NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) and that you maintain it properly, replacing filters according to manufacturers’ directions. Find out more about filter certification at nsf.org.
Lead is not present in water that leaves the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant, or in the water mains beneath the streets. However, the pipe connecting the home to the water system – called a service line – may contain lead, and portions of the home plumbing may also contain lead.
Lead can enter drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials that contain lead, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water.
Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing. A number of factors are involved including the chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity), the amount of lead it comes into contact with, how long the water stays in the plumbing materials, and the presence of protective coatings inside the plumbing materials.
Toledo’s Water Chemistry Reduces Corrosion and the Incidence of Lead in Drinking Water
Fortunately, Toledo’s process creates a protective coating on the inside of plumbing materials.
Toledo uses a process at its water treatment plant to inhibit corrosion and protect our water supply throughout its distribution system and into homes and businesses.
Toledo has had corrosion controls in place as a practical matter since 1941 when it started operations at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant and conformed to EPA corrosion control recommendations that were formalized in 1991.
The Division of Water Treatment adjusts the water’s chemistry to minimize corrosion and reduce the risk to drinking water from lead that may be present in lead service lines or home plumbing or fixtures.
- Toledo’s water treatment plant is operated at all times to maintain corrosion controls.
- Orthophosphate and polyphosphates are fed in small amounts to stabilize water quality and minimize corrosion in Toledo’s drinking water system.
- This process creates a protective coating on the inside of the piping to reduce corrosion and protect the water supply.
- Toledo tests its water for stability every day to ensure that the water is not corrosive. (PH and calcium carbonate levels)
- Toledo samples and tests water from private homes with lead service lines and plumbing (considered to be high risk) to ensure our corrosion controls remain effective.
- Toledo reports results related to lead and copper control to the Ohio EPA twice per year. The parameter levels are in accordance with a 1991 OEPA approved corrosion control study.
- Toledo’s lead testing results are among other quality tests reported each year in its annual Water Quality Report.
How do I know if my home has a lead service line or lead plumbing?
You may be able to determine on your own if your service line is made of lead. Service lines typically enter the home in the basement or crawl space. If the pipe is lead, it will have a dull finish that shines brightly when scratched with a key or coin. Using a magnet can also help you identify a lead pipe, because even a strong magnet will not cling to lead.
You may also hire a certified plumber, or contact your utility to inspect both your service line and other materials in contact with your drinking water. Here in Toledo, lead service lines are mostly in homes constructed before 1950. Visit the link below to learn what is known about the service line connecting your home to the system or call 419-245-1800 to speak with a Customer Service Representative.
Toledo Water Service Line Map
Toledo has an interactive map that indicates various materials used on the city-owned side of the water service line. To check what is known about the materials used at your service address, please click here.
Who owns the service lines? Who is responsible for repairs and replacement?
In Toledo, the portion of the service line from the water main to the curb stop (exterior round shut-off valve) is owned by the Department of Public Utilities, and the service line from the curb stop to the meter is the responsibility of the property owner.
Replacing the entire lead service line is therefore a shared responsibility between the Department of Public Utilities and each customer.
- Toledo has replaced city-owned lead service lines as part of its water main replacement program since 1999.
- Toledo also replaces city-owned service lines throughout the city regardless of the water main program at the same time property owners replace private side service lines.
Regulations Protecting Drinking Water
In 1986, U.S. Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to prohibit the use of pipes, solder or flux that were not “lead free.” Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.
In 2014, the maximum allowable lead content was reduced to not more than a weighted average of 0.25% of the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures. Legally "lead-free" plumbing may contain up to eight percent lead.
In 1986, U.S. Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to prohibit the use of pipes, solder or flux that were not “lead free.” In 2014, the maximum allowable lead content was reduced to not more than a weighted average of 0.25% of the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.
To address corrosion of lead and copper into drinking water, in 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). Since 1991 the LCR has undergone various revisions.
The treatment technique for the rule requires water systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.
If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.
What is lead?
Lead is a common, naturally occurring metal found throughout the environment. Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes and is rarely present in water coming from water treatment plants.
For centuries lead has been used in plumbing because of its pliability and resistance to leaks. This was before it was known that lead is harmful to human health. Most lead poisoning in children results from eating chips of deteriorating lead-based paint.
Is it safe to shower in water that contains lead?
Yes. Lead is not absorbed through the skin, so bathing or showering in water containing lead is not considered a health risk. –U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
If you wish to have your water tested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the quality of tap water, recommends sending samples to a certified laboratory for analysis.*
Results are generally available within two weeks, and will rarely take longer than a month. If lead is shown to be present, please contact the Toledo Division of Water Treatment at 419-936-3020 for guidance. We care about the quality of your drinking water and your family’s health.
*Laboratories Certified to Perform Chemical Analyses on Public Drinking Water
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Division of Drinking and Ground Waters
Adams Water Laboratory, Inc. 912 East Tallmadge Avenue Akron, OH 44310-3514 (330) 633-3991 FAX: (330) 633-3827
Alloway Marion Laboratory 1776 Marion-Waldo Road Marion, OH 43302 (740) 389-5991 or (800) 783-5991 FAX: (740) 389-1481ALS Laboratory Group 4388 Glendale-Milford Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45242 (513) 733-5336
ALS Laboratory Group 4388 Glendale-Milford Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45242 (513) 733-5336
American Analytical Labs - Akron 840 South Main Street Akron, OH 44311 (330) 535-1300 FAX: (330) 535-7246
Biosolutions, LLC 10180 Queens Way #6 Chagrin Falls, OH 44023 (440) 708-2999 FAX: (440) 708-2988
Brookside Laboratories, Inc. 200 White Mountain Dr. New Bremen, OH 45869 (419) 977-2766 Fax: (419) 977-2767
Cardinal Environmental Lab., LLC 2870 Salt Springs Road Youngstown, OH 44509 (330) 797-8844 or (800) 523-0347 FAX: (330) 797-3264
Coshocton Environmental Testing, Inc 709 Main Street Coshocton, OH 43812 (740) 622-3328 FAX: (740) 622-3368
CWM Environmental, Inc. 4450 Johnston Parkway, Unit B Cleveland, OH 44128 (216) 663-0808 FAX: (216) 663-0656
Dayton Central Water Quality Laboratory 3210 Chuck Wagner Lane Dayton, OH 45414 (937) 333-6093 Fax: (937) 234-1568
Jones & Henry Laboratories 2567 Tracy Road Northwood, OH 43619 (419) 666-0411 FAX: (419) 666-1657
Mahoning County Health Laboratory 50 Westchester Drive Austintown, OH 44515 (330) 270-2841 Non-Profit Work FAX: (330) 740-2309
MASI Laboratory P.O. Box 1440 Dublin, OH 43017 (614) 873-4654 FAX: (614) 873-3809
Montgomery County Environmental 4257 Dryden Road Dayton, OH 45439 (937) 781-3016 FAX: (937) 299-9042
NEORSD Analytical Services 4747 East 49th Street Cuyahoga Heights, OH 44125 (216) 641-6000 Fax: (216) 641-8118
Pace Analytical Services, Inc. - Dayton 25 Holiday Drive Englewood, OH 45322 (800) 723-5227 FAX: (937) 837-1071
Ream & Haager Laboratories, Inc. 179 West Broadway St. PO Box 706 Dover, OH 44622 (330) 343-3711 FAX: (330) 343-985
TCCI Laboratories 120 West Broadway P.O. Box 643 New Lexington, OH 43764-0643 (740) 342-1110 FAX: (740) 342-475