Amy wrote in with a few questions about city water testing…
Hi ~ thanks for this blog! Do cities provide free water testing as a service?
How would I know if my apt building has lead pipes?
To our knowledge most cities and municipalities do not provide free water testing as a service, though we have read that some areas will offer deeply discounted testing rates through local laboratories, or their own labs, in response to localized events such as regional flooding.
You can, however, call your local water company and request a copy of its most recent Annual Drinking Water Quality Report. Some cities opt to post their reports online and you can check to see if your area water company posts its report online at the EPA’s Safewater Project Web Site.
With regard to your question regarding whether or not your apartment building contains lead pipes, first determine the approximate age of the building.
Older houses are more likely to have problems with lead than houses built since 1988. Before that time, lead piping and lead solder were widely used in household plumbing systems as well as in the service lines that connect houses to street water mains. In 1986, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of lead pipes and lead solder in plumbing systems because lead is an insidious and dangerous poison. The EPA set an “action level” of .015 milligrams per liter of water for lead, stating that levels higher than that in water could pose a risk to human health. ( source )
Lead rarely occurs naturally in drinking water. It’s far more common for lead contamination to occur at some point in the water delivery system. It isn’t well known, but household plumbing is usually the culprit when it comes to high levels of lead and copper in drinking water. Lead and/or copper pipes, fittings and other components are commonly found in many plumbing systems. Metallic alloys such as brass and bronze often contain lead, so brass faucets or plumbing fittings may also release lead into home water systems. ( source )
With so many ways for potentially harmful levels of metals such as lead and copper to enter one’s drinking water, the only way to know for sure if you have lead in your water (which is what REALLY matters) involves testing your water.
Now of COURSE we suggest using a certified water testing lab such as Suburban Water Testing Laboratories, or another similarly qualified water testing service, but that does not mean you cannot test your own water from time to time for dangerous metals such as copper and lead.
Water Metals Test Kit
Water Quality Test Kit