New Federal Regulation Regarding Lead in Water

Posted on: January 24, 2014
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Plumbing

It’s a New Year for all of us, but it’s a really big year for our water system too. 2014 holds some big changes for your water consumption. The effective date for the new federal “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act,” is January 4, 2014. This law makes it illegal to sell or install pipes, fittings and fixtures in applications that convey water for human consumption that have an average lead content of 0.25% or more. With this law, repairs and improvements to our water supply pipelines may impact our water consumption on our safety significantly

Congress enacted the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act on January 4, 2011, to revise the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) including the use of lead pipes, plumbing fittings or fixtures, solder and flux. The Act established a effective date of January 4, 2014, giving cities and counties three years to make the transition to the new requirements, in addition to public utilities, government agencies, plumbing manufacturers, plumbing retailers and trade associations.

Lead is a common metal found in nature and is used in both household and commercial plumbing materials and water service lines. Lead rarely found in the sources of our water. It generally enters our tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead in pipes, fixtures and solder than homes build recently. However, even “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent of the metal. Lead soldering holds pipes, faucets, and fixtures together, which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water. Especially hot water, which dissolves lead more quickly.

Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of health issues. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical and mental development, deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure and may cause kidney problems.

Any water, including bottled water, is expected to contain small amounts of some contaminant. The presence of a contaminant does not necessarily mean that the water isn’t safe. Water Utility companies test the water 40, 000 to 50,000 times each month. The water provided to residents is non-corrosive, meaning that it is less likely to leach lead from pipes. Almost all water treatment facilities have a multi-barrier system that’s supposed to keep the water even when one of the barriers fails. You can request more information from your water provider. The City of Houston provides their annual Water Quality Reports on their website.

But, that doesn’t prevent lead contamination between the facility and our own faucets. When cities or counties repair our pipes or improve our water supply system in compliance with the new laws, they may expose old lead pipes and solder. This has temporarily increased the lead content of the drinking water. Most homeowners usually are unaware that work on the water system is being done or that the water may be tainted. Under federal rules, utility companies are rarely required to warn residents, usually only in extreme situations.

In addition to the exposure to lead, our pipes contain all kinds of bacteria, metals, chemicals and minerals. Some of them interact with our pipes and cause additional exposure to metals by corroding our pipes, fixtures and even our water heater. To remedy this problem, we can install water treatment systems.

Water treatment devices improve the water quality by reducing health hazards such as bacteria, chemical pollutants and other toxic substances and help remove nuisance problems, such as odors or hardness. Using a whole house water treatment system can also protect our cookware and ceramics, skin, and clothing (among many other items) from damage from minerals and chemicals.

Water treatment systems generally use one or a combination of these five basic categories:

  • Disinfection methods (chlorination, ultraviolet light, etc.)
  • Filtration, including activated carbon filters
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Distillation
  • Ion exchange (water softeners)

There are benefits for each system. Call your certified plumber before you make any decisions. They can explain the differences between systems and will help you determine which system is best for your home. They may have discounts or rebates from the manufacturers. Your certified plumber may have additional suggestions and may have specials on equipment or other services. They may also have service plans, like The Abacus Club, that can help save you money on service calls and provide annual plumbing tune-ups. Abacus Plumbing & Air Conditioning just recently began offering a maintenance agreement for water treatment, which includes quarterly maintenance visits

You can call Abacus Plumbing & Air Conditioning in Houston 24/7 at 713-812-7070 or visit for questions and scheduling information. Or on Facebook at,

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