Arlington’s water meets all state and federal drinking water standards- including lead and copper, which has consistently tested below the Action Level. Our water has met safe standards ever since the 1991 inception of EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.
- Does Arlington have lead water services/pipes?
- No, Arlington does not have any lead services and/or pipes in the water distribution system.
- How often does Arlington test the water for lead?
- In accordance with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), via the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), requires Arlington County to test the water for lead and copper every three years. Previously, per the LCR, Arlington tested the water more frequently and at additional locations, but because of consistent compliance and results below the Action Level, sampling is only taken once every three years.
- Testing will be conducted in the summer of 2016. Arlington will mail letters requesting residents to volunteer to be part of the sampling. Only specific homes deemed to be at the highest risk under the LCR are eligible for testing, essentially single family and townhouses built in the early 1980s. If you receive the letter, we encourage you to participate.
- Where do we test for lead and copper?
- Per the LCR, Arlington is required to sample homes built between 1982 and 1986 because they are likely to yield the highest results mainly because they have copper pipes joined with lead solder. Solder is used in the pipe connections in household plumbing. In 1986, lead solder was banned from use in household plumbing. The intent of the Lead and Copper Rule is to optimize water quality parameters to minimize corrosion. Our corrosion control performance far exceeds regulatory requirements. For more information about the rule, visit the EPA website.
- What are the common sources of lead?
- The primary sources of lead exposure for most children are deteriorating lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, and lead-contaminated residential soil. Exposure to lead is a significant health concern, especially for young children and infants whose growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than the average adult. If you are concerned about lead exposure, contact your health provider to find out how to get your child tested.
- What is being done to reduce exposure to lead in the publicly-owned drinking water supply?
- The Washington Aqueduct adds orthophosphate to the water during the treatment process. Orthophosphate acts as a corrosion inhibitor by forming a protective film on the interior of pipes. This film protects the pipe material from the corrosive effects of water, which reduces/eliminates the potential for lead leaching into the water.
- Why is orthophosphate being added to our drinking water?
- Some homes in the District of Columbia have exhibited elevated levels of lead in their drinking water since 2001. It’s believed that the source of the lead levels in these homes is from lead plumbing components leaching into the drinking water. Orthophosphate acts as a corrosion inhibitor by forming a protective film on the interior of pipes. This film protects the pipe material from the corrosive effects of water, which reduces or eliminates the potential for lead leaching into the water.
- Is orthophosphate safe?
- Yes. Not only is orthophosphate approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA, it’s also certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, an independent international testing organization that certifies and writes standards for products, food, air, water and consumer goods in use. In addition to the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies Arlington’s water, the public water systems of Fairfax County, Alexandria, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County all use some form of phosphate in their water treatment.
- Will orthophosphate have any effect on my drinking water?
- Orthophosphate should not affect the taste, color or smell of your drinking water.
- If there’s not a problem with lead in Arlington’s water, why is orthophosphate being added to our water?
- First, while lead testing results show that Arlington is in compliance with federal regulations, lowering concentrations is still possible, and the addition of orthophosphate should help in that regard by coating the metallic surfaces that contain some lead such as older solders and brass or bronze fixtures or piping. Second, there’s no practical way to treat the drinking water differently for the three jurisdictions that receive water from the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant in the District. This facility (along with the McMillan Water Treatment Plant) is run by the Washington Aqueduct. The Washington Aqueduct provides drinking water to the District, the City of Falls Church and Arlington County.
- How will Arlington be monitoring the effects of orthophosphate?
- Arlington regularly conducts testing of water quality parameters to ensure that the desired concentration of orthophosphate is being achieved throughout our distribution system, and to ensure that no unanticipated side effects result from the additional treatment.
- Does Arlington sample the water in the distribution system for other parameters beside lead and copper?
- Arlington County is required by law to sample for different water quality parameters throughout the year, including metals and potential harmful compounds. The primary regulation for water safety is the Total Coliform Rule (TCR). Federal government and the state of Virginia require monitoring for coliform bacteria in a municipality’s water supply.
- Under the TCR plan, Arlington is required to collect 120 samples per month. Sampling sites are located throughout the water system in Arlington. The sites are chosen and approved by Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for their representation of the whole water system and accessibility as Arlington’s staff need to have 365/24/7 access to the sites.
- All the water quality testing results are online published annually.
What You Can Do
- What can I do to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water?
- Water is lead free when it leaves the treatment plant. However, lead may work its way into drinking water after the water enters the distribution system and is on its way to consumer’s taps. This usually happens through the corrosion of materials containing lead in household plumbing. These materials include brass faucets, lead solder on copper pipes or other plumbing fixtures. Lead pipes are no longer installed for service lines or in household plumbing, and lead solder has been outlawed in Virginia since 1986.
- Steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water include:
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap as lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
- Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure.
- Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. New brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has reduced the maximum allowable lead content — that is, content that is considered “lead-free” — to be a weighted average of 0.25 percent calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux.
Visit the National Sanitation Foundation to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.