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Lead and Drinking Water

Lead is a metal that even at low levels, has the potential to cause a wide range of health effects, particularly in children six years old and under.

The primary source of lead exposure for most children is lead-based paint, but lead in drinking water can add to that exposure.

How can lead get into the drinking water?
Water from our reservoirs flows into the treatment plant, then through a series of pipes before it gets to your home. Aurora’s water does not contain lead above 1 part per billion (instrument detection limit).

Lead's not in Aurora's water, rather, it can be in your home's plumbing.If your home was built prior to 1960, you may have a lead service line.

So if lead isn't in the water in the city's pipes, where can it come from?
Water Service lines can be made from lead pipe. They can be from the mainline to the meter and/or from the meter to the house.

Lead can be found in the solder used to join copper pipe. Lead solder for this purpose no longer meets code.

Under the right conditions, lead can leach from service lines or solder into the water.

If I have lead pipes or solder, does that mean I have lead in my water?
Through treatment system best management practices, a protective film develops over lead and other materials in pipe. This film helps prevent lead from leaching into the water. As long as this film is intact, houses with lead service lines or soldering pose less of a risk for lead in their water. Changes to the chemical makeup of water can cause this film to break down.

Aurora Water is diligent in ensuring that the great water we deliver to you is carefully monitored at all points throughout the system so this doesn’t happen.

So what more can the city of Aurora and the customer do?
If the city replaces a lead service line and we suspect the pipe past the meter is also lead, the customer is notified with a phone call and a letter. The customer can choose to replace these lines. The address is also placed on the list of possible homes to sample for lead and copper when we do regulatory sampling.

Run your water. The single most important thing you can do to remove the lead from your tap is to flush it out. Run the water until it is cold.

Are water filters effective against lead?
Make sure the filter is rated to remove lead and replace the filter according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Please note, filters also remove chlorine, so you no longer have protection from bacteria. Be sure to keep any storage containers clean.

Finally, boiling water does not remove lead and can increase the concentration as the water evaporates.

Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.

Testing for Lead
Under the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule, Aurora Water tests at least 50 customers' water for lead and copper year. Aurora Water maintains a list of customers who have participated for several sampling cycles.

Is my home at risk for lead in the water?
Homes considered high-risk for lead service lines or homes with suspected lead solder. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines high-risk (Tier 1) homes as follows:

  • Homes with a lead service line that connects the water main (located under the street) to your home’s internal plumbing. In our community, some of the pipes that connect older homes, those built prior to 1960, to the utility water main are made from lead.

  • Homes with copper pipe and lead solder installed between 1982 and 1987.

  • Homes that do not fall within these two categories are at lower risk for lead contamination in the water.

How is testing done?
Samples are collected as a "first draw" sample, before any water has been flushed through the faucet, by the customer from a tap they regularly use. For proper testing, according to the EPA, the water must sit in the pipe for 6 hours prior to taking a 1 liter sample. This gives a “worst case” result.

Once analysis is done, we see if the results exceed the EPA’s “Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb). If 10% of the samples are greater than the action level further action would be required. Part of that action would be to notify the public and educate them with regards to lead. The other part would be determining how to prevent the leaching process from occurring. This could mean adding an additional chemical in the treatment process.

Aurora has not exceeded the 90th percentile action level for lead. 

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