Seattle’s drinking water sources do not contain lead. However, lead can leach into water from home plumbing systems built with lead-based solder, brass fixtures, or some types of zinc coatings used on galvanized pipes and fittings.
Reduce your lead exposure
There are a few simple steps you can take in the home to reduce the risk of lead in your drinking water:
- If water has been standing in pipes for over 2 hours, flush out the pipes by running the tap until you feel a temperature change before using for drinking or cooking, usually thirty seconds to three minutes. To save water, use the water you flush out for watering plants or doing dishes.
- Always draw drinking and cooking water from COLD water tap -- lead dissolves more quickly in hot water.
- Never make baby formula or other drinks or food for children from the HOT water tap. Start with water taken from the cold water faucet (after flushing) and warm it if necessary.
- If you are making plumbing changes, be sure to select low-lead or no-lead fixtures. As of January 2014, a new federal law is in effect, reducing the amount of lead in plumbing fixtures from 8 percent to 0.25 percent. Manufacturers are already offering faucets that meet the new standard.
Have your home drinking water tested
Seattle Public Utilities’ Water Quality Laboratory is not set up to test high volumes of residential samples for lead. To have your home tested, contact a certified lab near your area. The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for certifying labs in Washington. The Department of Ecology website lists labs certified to test drinking water. Analysis costs range from $25 to $50. Please contact the laboratories directly for sample collection procedures and prices.
Lead and copper rule compliance
SPU began sampling and analysis to meet the USEPA Lead and Copper Rule in 1992. The Lead and Copper Rule sets action levels of 15 ug/L (0.015 mg/L) for lead and 1300 ug/L (1.3 mg/L) for copper. A utility must make treatment changes or meet other requirements if the action level for either lead or copper is exceeded in more than 10% of the residential samples.
Seattle Public Utilities has put a tremendous amount of effort into reducing lead and copper levels from home plumbing materials. North-end reservoirs have been covered and gas chlorination has been converted to hypochlorination for distribution system reservoirs. The Tolt Treatment Facility was brought online in 2001 and includes ozonation, coagulation, flocculation, direct filtration, fluoridation, pH control, alkalinity adjustment, and chlorine disinfection.
These improvements have resulted in substantially lower lead levels in home tap samples. Seattle now qualifies for reduced monitoring for lead and copper (50 homes once every three years). The most recent round of samples showed no results with lead or copper above the action levels. Seattle has met all requirements of the lead and copper rule since 2003.