Inaccurate lead in city water tests in the Windy City? According to a new EPA study, yes, the manner in which city workers, homeowners, business owners, and private groups that monitor water quality may have yielded less than accurate results.

WaterSafe Lead in Water Test
WaterSafe Lead in Water Test

“A recently completed study by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection found the testing methods it requires water utilities to use nationwide systematically misses high lead levels. That can pose health hazards for everyone living in older homes, most of all for children.” ( source )

So… How did the older methodology of testing for dissolved lead in city water (all over the US and not just in Chicago!) fail? Quite simply, the old testing method focused primarily on the plumbing leading from the water connection at the water main out to the faucet… and disregarded the possibility that older service lines contained in an area’s infrastructure may contain lead components.

Potential sources of lead in drinking water:

  • Residences constructed before 1986 more than likely have lead service lines between the building and the water main.
  • Some homes may have copper piping joined together using solder that contains lead.
  • Some brass faucets may contain trace amounts of lead that could leach into the water over time.
  • Work done to repair damaged, older water mains will sometimes result in higher than normal amounts of lead finding its way into drinking water.

As a general rule health officials and water quality professionals all agree that lead in drinking water causes health problems — especially in the young and the very old.

Can the average person test for lead? Of course! WaterSafe manufactures an easy-to-use lead in water test kit that lets a person know if their water sample contains 15ppb or more dissolved lead.

Why 15ppb dissolved lead? The USEPA set the MCL (maximum contaminant level) for lead in its Primary Drinking Water Standards at 15ppb, meaning if a public water supply contains 15ppb (or more) of dissolved lead, the water treatment facility must take immediate action to correct the situation.

For additional information on lead in water, we suggest taking a look at the lead in drinking water information page on the USEPA web site.

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