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Important Information About Lead in Your Drinking Water

Lead has been detected by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection at some homes with lead service lines (homes built before 1961 may have lead service lines), or internal fixtures and plumbing that contain lead, or that have 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 and has been used in paint, plumbing pipes and faucets and other products.  Lead can be found in household dust, soil and some imported consumer products like clay pottery, cosmetics, food and toys. Lead seldom occurs naturally in rivers and lakes; in fact, the water from New York City’s upstate reservoirs and water distribution system is virtually lead-free.

Lead primarily enters drinking water because of corrosion of lead-containing plumbing, including pipes that connect household plumbing to the city’s water mains, solder on copper pipes, and faucets.  Although regulations have been put in place to reduce the lead in plumbing, your residence may still contain plumbing and fixtures with lead content if they were installed before these rules came into effect.

When water stands for several hours or more in lead service lines or plumbing systems containing lead, some lead may dissolve into the water.  In such systems, this means the water first drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon after returning from work or school, may contain high levels of lead.  Even new faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water.  Under New York State law plumbing fixtures, such as faucets, with up to 8 percent lead can be labeled as “lead-free.” Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions.

How is the City Reducing the Risks of Lead in Water?

DEP maintains an active program to reduce the quantity of lead that dissolves into water, especially in private homes with lead or lead soldering in pipes. DEP carefully monitors and adjusts pH levels of water to a specific range that reduces the corrosive nature of the water, and we add phosphoric acid—a common food preservative—to create a protective film on pipes that reduces the release of metals, such as lead, from household plumbing.

DEP also performs rigorous and comprehensive monitoring every day, to ensure that we continue to deliver the healthy, great tasting water that New Yorkers expect. DEP monitors its drinking water for approximately 250 contaminants, approximately 100 of which are not currently required by regulators, and conducts more than 500,000 water quality tests each year.

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