Events in Flint, Michigan placed a spotlight on lead levels in drinking water and the potential health issues associated with lead. Lead exposure is a serious health concern, and EBMUD has several ongoing efforts to monitor lead and minimize our customers' exposure to lead in drinking water.
Keeping lead out of drinking water
- There is no lead in the water produced by our water treatment plants. However, lead can get into drinking water as it passes through pipes and plumbing materials that contain lead. Therefore, we employ two different strategies: 1) remove lead-bearing materials, and 2) reduce the corrosiveness of the water.
- EBMUD removed all known lead service lines in the 1990s and early 2000s and we continue to remove lead materials whenever they are found. Our crews are trained to recognize and remove legacy lead components that are occasionally encountered during regular work in repairing or replacing water pipes.
- We have a corrosion control program in place, which minimizes corrosion in both our distribution pipes and household and private property plumbing. If any lead pipes still exist in homes or private properties, our corrosion control minimize lead leaching into the water. Corrosion control has been part of our operation since our water system was built in the 1930’s.
- We do extensive testing of our water 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 voucher program
EBMUD has a lead test voucher program. Although we removed all known lead service lines from our system years ago, we want to empower you to test the plumbing in your home or business if you suspect it may expose you to lead. At no cost to you, you may request a voucher for a certified lab to test your tap water. Request a lead voucher by calling Customer Service at 1-866-403-2683 or email email@example.com.
Lead sampling in schoolsCommunity water systems like EBMUD were required to provide lead testing at pre-kindergarten through 12th grade (PreK-12) school sites constructed prior to 2010. This one-time testing effort was completed before the regulatory deadline of July 1, 2019.
Lead sampling in childcare centers
All licensed childcare centers in California constructed before January 1, 2010 are required to test their drinking water for lead. The testing must be done between January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2023, and then repeated every 5 years. This requirement does not apply to family childcare homes. State Orders on Lead Sampling for licensed childcare centers is available for download below and includes information on external water sampler self-certification. EBMUD will not be directly involved in lead sampling at licensed childcare centers
Frequent asked questions about lead
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 Flint’s operation and EBMUD’s. 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 they are found.
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 they are found. We also maintain an active 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. If you are concerned about lead in your home’s plumbing, you can have your water tested at no cost. Call EBMUD Customer Service at 866-403-2683 and request a lead test. You can also click “Contact Us” at the top of this page to send us an email. Under “Topic” select “Water Quality”.
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 year 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 has rolled out a new lead test voucher program. Although we removed all known lead service lines from our system years ago, we want to empower you to test the plumbing in your home or business if you suspect it may expose you to lead. At no cost to you, you may request a voucher for a certified lab to test your tap water. Request a lead voucher by calling Customer Service at 1-866-403-2683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are in Alameda County, please visit the Alameda County's Healthy Homes Department, the county's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
- If you are in Contra Costa County, please visit the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
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.