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Why You Should Replace Lead Pipes in Washington, D.C.

After several high-profile cases of water contamination in U.S. metropolitan areas, government officials and water service companies have started to become more acutely aware of the severe ramifications of lead in water.

In Washington, D.C. the water service company District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) created an interactive tool that gives District residents access to information about their water pipes.

The District's data for service lines comes from permit records, water main tap records, meter records, and maintenance, repair, and replacement work. After entering an address, the map will display dots that indicate the material on both the public and private side of the pipe. It also shows if DC Water has no information on record. If you click on a dot, users can also find out if pipes are made of copper or other materials.

 

Lead Pipes D.C.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study in 2010 confirming that the presence of a lead service line presents an added risk of lead exposure through tap water. The study’s findings did not indicate that all homes connected to a lead pipe service line have lead coming out of the tap. Rather, it concluded there is a greater possibility of lead contamination. Regardless, there is always the chance of lead in water occurring when there are lead pipes leading into D.C. homes.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority has been gradually replacing lead pipes with non-leaded pipes. There are two types of lead pipe replacement, partial replacement and full replacement.

  • Partial Replacement: Involves replacing the portion of the lead service line that is under the city street, and on the "public" side of the property line.
  • Full Lead Service Line Replacement: Removes the pipe lengths on both the "public" and the "private" sides of the property line, and is really the only reliable way to minimize the risk of leaded water entering the home plumbing system. It’s important to note that lead solder and fixtures containing lead can still be found in the plumbing system inside some homes.

Whenever DC Water replaces lead service lines under the city streets, the company also encourages affected property owners to take advantage of this work and also replace the lead pipes under their own private property.

A full lead service line replacement is ideal, as it eliminates the lead pipes altogether and avoids any temporary increase in lead levels in the water, which has been observed to occur for an indefinite and possibly prolonged period of time after a partial pipe replacement.

In fact, the CDC study also found that a partial pipe replacement does not reduce the likelihood of lead contamination from the remaining lead pipes. If there’s the chance that there is lead in water entering your home, you should undergo a full lead service line replacement.

The cost of lead service line replacement under private property in the District of Columbia is typically about $2,000 - $3,000, according to the Department of Energy and Environment.The EPA estimates it could cost $2,500 to $8,000 to replace the full service line to a typical home, which includes the portion on public land and the part on the customer’s property.

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Dangers of Lead in Water

Although the Environmental Protection Agency established a 15 part per billion (ppb) "action level” for lead in tap water, even small traces of lead in water are dangerous. The agency says has a “health goal” of zero lead. Although the EPA established that level, other health researchers worry about short-term exposures for lead above five ppb in water, and one ppb for long-term exposures.

The metal irreversibly in lead stunts neurological development in children, leading to lower IQ levels and lack of emotional control. Some studies have found that children who were exposed to lead go on to have higher rates of incarceration as adults. Lead isn’t only dangerous to children. Lead is linked to cardiovascular disease, constipation, nausea, and depression when ingested.

 

Lead Water Test

It’s important to test your water if you’re unsure whether or not you have lead pipes. For accurate results, you might need to test it more than one time over the course of several years.

“Water chemistry is complicated. It can even change within the distribution system,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director with the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. “I’ve seen testing on homes with lead service lines ... one year it will be low, and then the next year it will be high, and they can’t explain (why).”

 

Precautions from Lead in Water

If you suspect you have lead in your plumbing, request a free lead test from DC Water. However, there are immediate precautions you can take to protect you and your family from drinking lead in water.

  • Flush the water.If water has been sitting in your plumbing for six hours or more you should leave the water running for at least 30 seconds before use. The more the water runs, the less time it has to come into contact with any lead in your plumbing. To flush water from a faucet that might have lead, let the water run until it becomes colder.
  • Replacing plumbing components.Replacing faucets is a less expensive proposition than replacing all of your plumbing or your water service line. But if you’re concerned, and water tests show there might be a problem, it should definitely be a priority. The consequences of drinking lead in water are severe and irreversible.
  • Buy a water filter.Look for filters certified to remove lead from water. Attach the water filter to your faucet where you get your drinking water. You can also consider other water purifying devices such as reverse osmosis systems.

 

Contact a Plumbing Professional for Lead Pipe Replacement

The only true way to eliminate lead exposure is to get rid of contaminated sources including service lines, or pipes that connect a household's plumbing to the water main in the street. If property owners want to replace their portion of the lines, DC Water will pay to replace the public side.

However, it’s important to have seasoned plumbing professionals replace your private-side lead pipes. The team at John C. Flood has experience removing and replacing faulty and dangerous pipes such as orangeburg sewer pipes and polybutylene pipes.

We can repair or replace interior and exterior pipes and install water purification systems to keep your family safe from lead in water. No one can rival our value for a lead pipe replacement job. Our team cares about your family’s health, which is why we off a free camera inspection and $250 off a water main replacement. Contact John C. Flood for the most trusted lead pipe replacement professionals to take care of your boiler or furnace maintenance. Schedule your HVAC inspection today!