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Lead Questions & Answers

How does Tacoma Water help prevent lead from getting into people’s drinking water?
Lead in drinking water does not typically come from the water source. It usually comes from the plumbing that serves or is inside customers’ homes, from corrosion of plumbing or fixtures containing lead, or the solder that connects copper pipes.

Tacoma's water is treated with caustic soda to raise the pH. Raising the pH makes it less corrosive on plumbing, reducing the amount of lead that can dissolve into the drinking water. In addition to the treatment at the Green River, Tacoma also provides corrosion control treatment for a majority of its seasonal groundwater well supply.

What is Tacoma Water’s process for testing for lead, and who sets the rules?
The federal Lead and Copper Rule, developed by the EPA, prescribes the sampling methodology and acceptable levels of lead. The federally acceptable limit of lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb) in no more than 10% of collected samples.

How do high levels of lead in the water affect people?
Studies cited by the Environmental Protection Agency show that exposure to lead can cause health problems, especially in pregnant women and young children. Children are at highest risk of lead exposure from soil, as well as from dust and paint in older homes. While drinking water isn’t usually a significant source of lead, it can contribute to total exposure.

How does Tacoma Water report lead findings to customers?
The summarized results of the most recent round of lead sampling is included in the annual Water Quality Report that is mailed to all customers each year.

What homes are at high risk of having lead contamination through the pipes?
Homes that were constructed prior to 1986 with copper plumbing and lead solder, or homes that contain any lead piping, are considered the highest risk.

If I’m concerned about lead in my water, what can I do?
Tacoma Water recommends people flush their pipes — running the water for a couple of minutes — if the water is shut off at the meter. It’s also a good idea to flush pipes after prolonged periods without use, like after a vacation.

How can I test my water for lead?
Tacoma Water offers customers free lead testing by providing the materials and delivering the water samples to an independent lab. Go to TacomaWater.com/TestKit to order your free kit.

How can I determine whether my home has lead pipes?
Tacoma Water recommends that the pipe be inspected by a plumbing professional if you're concerned about its condition. More information regarding lead is available from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Health.  

Who should I contact if I have concerns about my water?
If you have any questions or concerns about your water quality, Tacoma Water has dedicated staff ready to help. Please contact us at (253) 502-8207 or by email at waterquality@cityoftacoma.org.