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Questions About Lead

What is lead?
Lead is a soft, malleable metal that was used in items from gasoline to paint. Due to its adverse health effects, the federal government limited its use in the 1980s.

Does Gwinnett County’s water have lead?
No, lead does not occur naturally in our source waterLead does not come from our water treatment plants or our water distribution system. 

Gwinnett County’s water distribution system contains no known lead piping. The distribution system contains trace amounts of lead in solder on older pipes and brass fittings used at meters. Since 2014, DWR has used only lead-free brass fittings and continues to proactively replace pipe in our system.

Where does lead come from?
The main source of lead in drinking water is from private plumbing systems. It can come from lead solder used in service lines running between the water main in the street and the home, as well as from plumbing inside the home.  

Although lead soldering of copper water pipes was banned in Georgia in 1986, some homes may still contain these plumbing systems. Per federal regulation, DWR tests locations with these “at-risk” plumbing systems.

How do water utilities keep lead from leaching into water?
Utilities throughout the country keep lead from leaching out of lead solder, fittings, or pipes into water by reducing the corrosiveness of water. For more than 20 years Gwinnett County DWR has used optimized corrosion control techniques during the treatment process. These techniques prevent corrosion of metal pipes, and also prevent lead from leaching from plumbing systems into the water. 

Our Environmental Lab runs regular tests to ensure corrosion control is maintained at optimum levels.

Is lead in drinking water regulated?
Yes, the US EPA regulates lead through the Lead and Copper Rule section of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The rule requires utilities to test tap water from a sampling of homes in the county. Lead levels should be below 15 parts per billion (ppb) for 90 percent of the samples tested. Water from Gwinnett County DWR has consistently met this EPA standard for more than 20 years.

What were the results of Gwinnett County’s most recent lead testing?
Per federal regulations, Gwinnett County DWR tests homes located throughout the county to ensure that our corrosion control is effective. 

Our Water Quality Report can be found here:
https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/static/departments/publicutilities/pdf/2017_CCR.pdf

When testing for lead, 90 percent of all samples tested must be less than the 15 ppb action level (AL). This means that out of every 10 homes sampled, nine must be at or below this level. During our latest testing, 90 percent were below 1.6 ppb. The highest level detected (17 ppb) was at one home out of the 50 sampled.

Because our lead levels have remained consistently low, we are only required by EPA to conduct lead sampling once every three years. 

If you’re concerned about lead in your home
Gwinnett County DWR takes every precautionary step to reduce the corrosiveness of the water during the treatment process to minimize lead leaching into drinking water. However, some homes may still have lead in their plumbing:

  • Homes built before 1970 have a greater chance of having partial lead plumbing.
  • Homes build prior to 1987 may have lead solder connecting copper pipes.
  • Homes built after 1985 are significantly less likely to have a significant amount of lead in the plumbing.
  • Homes built after 2014 have the least amount of lead, as even the brass fittings used in these dwellings are required to meet stringent lead requirements.

If you have lead solder or other lead sources in your home plumbing, here are some steps you can take to further reduce lead:

  • If water has been sitting in your pipes for an extended period of time (more than 6 hours), flush the line by letting the cold water faucet run for 1 - 2 minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking.
  • Only use cold water for cooking and drinking. Lead leaches more easily into hot water.
  • Clean out the aerators (screens on the faucet) periodically. Over an extended period of time, these screens can trap sediment and debris. They twist off easily and can be cleaned or replaced, if needed.

If you are concerned that your plumbing may contain lead, there are two local and certified labs that can test for the presence and concentration of lead. The test for lead ranges from $15 to $40, depending on the number of samples submitted. Please contact your chosen lab for more information and proper sample collection protocol.

Analytical Environmental Services, Chamblee     Analytical Services, Inc., Norcross
770.457.8177     770.734.4200