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Lead in Pipes
Questions

No. In 2005 WSSC Water conducted an aggressive search to find and replace any lead pipes in its distribution system. These pipes are on public property, owned and maintained by WSSC Water.

A small percentage of customers might have lead service lines on their property. Customers who are unsure about their service lines should contact a WSSC Water registered plumber to inspect the pipes. In addition, some homes could have lead solder, which was used to connect copper plumbing. In 1986 the EPA banned the use of lead solder in water pipes. In accordance with EPA guidelines, WSSC Water conducts water quality tests every three years on selected homes with a high probability of containing lead-soldered copper plumbing. In addition, additives in the drinking water provide a preventive coating for the pipes (see below).

Testing
Questions

The level of lead in 90% of homes tested in 2017 is less than 1.1 parts per billion, much lower than the 15 ppb level that the EPA says is unacceptable. In most homes, lead was not detected or present in only small traceable amounts.

Absolutely. We'll send bottles and instructions to your home and have you collect samples in order to capture the "worst-case scenario" of stagnant water. You'll fill two bottles with kitchen tap water and return them to us with the requested paperwork via FedEx. We’ll mail the test results to you in about three weeks. Customers requesting water testing should complete the Report a Water Quality Issue form to receive bottles and instructions for sampling.

WSSC Water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment to ensure the water we provide to customers meets federal and state regulatory standards. WSSC Water is also closely monitored by the executive and legislative branches in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as state legislators in Annapolis. WSSC Water has never had a drinking water violation in more than 100 years.

Prevention
Questions

Despite the relatively low level of risk, WSSC Water adds a corrosion inhibitor (orthophosphate) to the water supply to create a coating on pipes (including those on customers' property) to prevent the pipes from leaching lead.

While WSSC Water has not seen any lead levels requiring palliative measures, we recommend the following steps to further reduce risks:

  • Run your water to flush out any potential lead content: If water hasn't been used for several hours, run water for 15 to 30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking.
  • Use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Hot water is more likely to cause lead leaching that could contaminate water drawn from the faucet.
  • Periodically remove debris from faucet strainers - we recommend twice a year. Remove the faucet strainers/screens from the faucet you use for consumption, rinse off the strainer, and run the water for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Have an electrician check the grounding in your home: Contact a licensed electrician to check if grounding wires from the electrical system are connected to your water pipes (which may increase the corrosion of metals in the plumbing). If so, see if wires can be grounded elsewhere.
  • Look for alternative sources (e.g. bottled water) or treatment of water if lead levels are elevated. If purchasing a water filter, be sure it is approved to reduce lead, or contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 for information on water filter standards.
  • Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how to have your child tested for lead, if you are concerned about exposure.
General Questions
Questions

Customers who live in older homes and suspect they might have lead service lines should contact a WSSC Water-registered plumber to determine if their homes contain lead pipes. Or they can contact our Water Quality Division at 301-206-7575 to learn how to have their water tested.

Source water taken from the Potomac and Patuxent rivers is first treated by our water filtration plants where it is tested more than 500,000 times each year, including tests for lead, before being sent to homes and businesses. WSSC Water also tests for lead from customers' homes. You can read the results of our tests in our annual Water Quality Report.

The short answer is "no." WSSC Water has a long-standing and effective program to deal with lead. In addition, there were a number of issues that were unique and specific to the Flint situation.

  • Flint officials made a budgetary decision to switch from water treated and distributed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to a newly created water authority that used the Flint River as its source. The Flint River contains high levels of corrosive chloride, and the water quality issue was compounded when Flint officials decided against using additives to control corrosion. As a result, high levels of lead leached into the drinking water. (Note: WSSC Water uses a corrosion inhibitor chemical in its water treatment)
  • Flint did not conduct the necessary tests that would have detected lead in the drinking water. The tests they did conduct violated EPA protocols by potentially downplaying any lead levels that would be found.
  • In Flint, a number of tests and warning signs were ignored for more than 18 months. Despite repeated customer complaints and concerns from healthcare professionals, the issue of lead in the drinking water was not addressed until it was exposed on a national scale. This occurred primarily due to a lack of regulatory oversight. By contrast, WSSC is governed by six Commissioners and is regulated by the EPA and MDE, and is monitored by the Montgomery and Prince George's county councils.
Last Modified: October 8, 2021, 9:19 am EDT