Information for Consumers
Important information about lead
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It 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. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. 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. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.
Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water: Everyone has a Role
Here’s how these organizations work to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
● Very low lead levels occur in source and treated water (often, no lead is detected in source or treated water)
● Corrosion control treatment (maintains constant pH – a measure of acidity - and adds orthophosphate)
● Monitors to ensure water is minimally corrosive as it leaves the treatment plants
● Reports results to EPA
D.C. Water and Sewer Authority
● Monitors at locations most likely to have lead problems to determine effectiveness of the corrosion control treatment
● Replaces public lead service lines when homeowners replace private lines, or in conjunction with road or water system repairs
● Participates in national research studies
● Reports results to EPA
What is EPA’s role?
…reviews treatment processes, monitoring plans, and results to determine effectiveness of corrosion control
…develops regulations and guidance
…performs and funds corrosion research
…maintains a website on lead in DC drinking water (www.epa.gov/dclead)
…provides technical assistance to Washington Aqueduct, DCWASA, and other District agencies
…reviews outreach and publications from DC water systems, as requested
Here are steps you can take to further reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
● Before using water for drinking or cooking - especially if the water has been sitting unused for several hours - let the water run from your tap until it is as cold as it will get. This may take up to 2 minutes.
● Use only cold water for drinking and cooking
● Heat cold water on the stove or in the microwave for preparing infant formula
● Periodically, remove and clean the strainer/aerator device on your faucets
● Purchase faucets and other plumbing fixtures/fittings with the lowest lead content possible that are certified by an independent testing agency, such as NSF International
● Replace leaded pipes and plumbing (including private portions of lead service lines)
If you have specific concerns:
● Request water sampling kits from a certified laboratory to measure lead-in-water levels
● Talk with your health care provider about blood lead testing and other health questions
Link to printable version of this information-PDF [1p, 2m, about pdf]
See the Related Links page for additional consumer information
This site contains information on lead and related drinking water issues specifically for District of Columbia residents. Although lead levels have been below the action level for several monitoring periods, water quality monitoring and research continue. The sections below highlight the status of these efforts.
- Water quality summaries from DC WASA
Update on Lead in Drinking Water (November 2012)
Lead Monitoring Results and Status of Orthophosphate Treatment
In July 2012, EPA received DC Water's most recent report on lead levels in DC drinking water. DC Water reported that 90 percent of the samples had lead levels of 3 parts per billion (ppb) or less, below EPA's lead action level of 15 ppb. This is the fifteenth monitoring period in a row that DC Water has met the lead action level.
Since August 2004, the Washington Aqueduct has been adding orthophosphate to the drinking water as a corrosion inhibitor. Orthophosphate is a tasteless, odorless, food-grade additive that is used by many water systems to control corrosion. It works by forming a protective coating inside pipes that decreases the amount of lead that leaches from lead service lines and customers' plumbing systems. Orthophosphate was added to the entire DC distribution system beginning on August 23, 2004.
Compliance with Administrative Order
The May 2007 Administrative Penalty Order [7pp, 224k, about pdf] closed the 2004 Administrative Order. [35pp, 179k, about pdf] This table [18pp, 84k, about pdf] includes a list of Order requirements, deadlines, and the status of each requirement.
Lead Service Line (LSL) Replacement
For more information on changes to the scope of DC Water's LSL replacement program, please visit DC Water's website. EPA encourages homeowners to replace the portion of the LSL on their private property and to contact DC Water to find out about financing options.
Members of the Technical Expert Working Group (TEWG) continue to meet by teleconference on a regular basis. The TEWG consists of the Washington Aqueduct, DC WASA, the D.C. Department of Health, the District Department of the Environment, EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and multiple expert consultants hired by the various groups. Originally formed in February 2004, the TEWG continues as a forum for discussing treatment changes, on-going research, and coordinating communications.
Several studies related to the D.C. lead issue are helping to ensure the D.C. utilities go beyond compliance with the Lead and Copper rule. Please see the research section of the Corrosion Control page for additional details on research projects.