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Lead in Your Drinking Water

We have detected lead in the drinking water at some homes that have either:

  • lead service lines (homes built before 1961 may have lead service lines)
  • internal fixtures and plumbing that contain lead
  • internal plumbing joined by lead solder (plumbing installed before 1987 may contain lead solder)

Sources of Lead

Lead is a common metal found in the environment. It was historically used in paint, plumbing pipes and faucets, and other products. Lead can be found in household dust and soil, as well as and some imported consumer products like clay pottery, cosmetics, food and toys. Lead is rarely found in rivers and lakes. Tests show the water from New York City’s upstate reservoirs and the water distribution system is virtually lead-free.

Lead can be found in the service lines (pipes) that connect buildings to the City’s water mains, in solder on copper pipes, and in faucets.  The presence of lead in New York City drinking water is caused by corrosion, a reaction between the water and the metallic pipes or solder. When water comes in contact with plumbing that contains lead, the lead can be absorbed into the water. Although this can happen at any time, higher concentrations of lead may be found when the water has not be used for several hours, such as first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon after getting home from work or school. You can minimize the potential for lead exposure by running your tap for 30 seconds or until the water gets noticeably colder before using water for drinking or cooking.

Although regulations have been put in place to reduce the lead in plumbing, your residence may still contain pipes, solder and fixtures that contain some lead if the were installed before these rules came into effect. Even new faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. Under current federal law “lead-free” plumbing components can still have up to 0.25% lead in the surface touching the water.  Prior to 2014, “lead free” fixtures could have up to 8% lead. Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions.

How the is City Reducing the Risks of Lead in Water

Before your drinking water goes into the City’s distribution system, we carefully adjust the pH levels of the water to a specific range to lessen the corrosive nature of the water. We also add phosphoric acid—a common food preservative—that forms a protective film on household plumbing as the water passes through your pipes. These steps minimize the amount of lead that dissolves into water, especially in private homes with lead pipes, fixtures or solder.

We also perform water quality monitoring throughout the City every day to make sure we continue to deliver the healthy, great tasting water that New Yorkers expect. We monitor New York City’s drinking water for approximately 250 contaminants, approximately 100 of which are not currently required by regulations, and conduct more than 600,000 water quality tests each year.

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