Events in Flint, Michigan have placed a spotlight on lead levels in drinking water and the potential health issues associated with lead. EBMUD meets and surpasses all state and federal drinking water requirements, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule.
- EBMUD removed all known lead service lines from the District’s service area in the 1990s and we continue to remove lead materials whenever it is found.
- We have sound corrosion control practices in place, which prevent corrosion in both our distribution pipes and household and private property plumbing. If any lead pipes exist in homes or private properties, our corrosion control practices prevent lead from leaching into the water. Corrosion control has been part of our operation since our water system was built in the 1920’s, before the Lead and Copper Rule came into being.
- We do extensive testing of our water supply to ensure that EBMUD water is minimally corrosive.
- EBMUD spearheaded a campaign to minimize lead in household faucets, resulting in the passage of California law AB 1953 that went into effect in 2010. That law reduced the lead content standard for drinking water plumbing from 4 percent to 0.25 percent. In 2011, President Obama signed into law a national “Get the Lead Out” bill, modeled after California’s law. It went into effect in 2014.
Lead is a toxic metal. Elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems. Pregnant women, infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. You cannot smell or taste lead. Diluted lead is not visible to the naked eye.
There are substantial differences between the way Flint’s system operated and the way EBMUD’s does. First, Flint’s water delivery system still has thousands of lead pipes. EBMUD removed all known lead pipes from its system in the 1990s and we continue to remove lead materials whenever it is found. As more and more studies showed the harmful effects of consuming lead, we took action.
Second, when Flint changed its water source from Lake Huron to Flint River—a source it hadn’t used in many years-- it did not take into account the very different chemistry of the new water source and its effect on the pipe system. No corrosion control chemicals were added to the water to prevent lead from leaching from the old pipes. In contrast, EBMUD has a corrosion control program in place. We know water flowing to our customers’ taps meets or surpasses state and federal quality requirements, and we use best practices to prevent the external corrosion of pipes sitting in the ground.
When we brought dry year water supplies from the Sacramento River for the first time during this historic drought, we got approval from the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water. We continued our corrosion control treatment program with the new water source and monitored pH levels to control corrosivity.
No, this kind of incident is unlikely to happen here for a number of reasons. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials associated with lead in water distribution pipes and home plumbing. In the 1990s, EBMUD replaced all known lead service lines in our system and we continue to remove lead materials whenever it is found. We also maintain an aggressive corrosion control program to reduce lead leaching from water mains.
Still, some homes and buildings in our service area may have lead pipes, soldered joints or fixtures containing lead. It is possible that lead levels at your home may be higher than at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your home’s plumbing. We have a protocol in place for testing lead at customers' taps, however we recommend customers with concerns have their water tested at a certified lab.
EBMUD takes lead exposure seriously and has over the last decade taken proactive steps to promote lead-free faucets and fixtures. A public health campaign spearheaded by EBMUD resulted in the passage of California law (AB 1953-Chan) to reduce the lead content standard for drinking water plumbing from 4 percent to 0.25 percent. In 2011, President Obama signed into law a national “Get the Lead Out” bill, modeled after California’s law.
EBMUD collects water samples from homeowners’ taps every three years as required by federal and state law. Participants are chosen based on their homes’ year of construction, taking into consideration the possibility of lead within the structures’ pipelines. Those test results have always shown EBMUD to be in compliance with federal and state laws. EBMUD does not offer testing services for lead unless a customer is part of the water quality testing program required by state and federal law.
If you are concerned about elevated lead levels in your home’s water, you may wish to have your water tested. We recommend using a lab certified by the state Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). A few are listed below:
Alpha Analytical Laboratory
6398 Dougherty Rd # 35, Dublin, CA 94568
Micro Analytical Laboratories
Asbestos Testing Service
5900 Hollis St., Emeryville, CA 94608
McCampbell Analytical, Inc.
1534 Willow Pass Rd., Pittsburg, CA 94565
Cost ranges from $17 to $90 depending on how quickly a customer would like results and how extensive the test.
For more information, contact the state Water Resources Control Board at (510) 620-3475 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit the Alameda County's Healthy Homes Department, the county's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, for information on testing your home for lead.
There are other steps you can take. If your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing out the lines by running your faucet for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking (capture and reuse this water for other uses such as watering ornamental plants), and avoiding consuming water from the hot water tap, where lead is more likely to be present. You can find more guidance at DrinkTap.org.
For more information about water quality or to report a water quality concern, please call us at 866-403-2683. We respond to all water-quality related calls within one business day.
More information on lead in drinking water, testing methods and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or online at epa.gov/safewater/lead.