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When drinking water leaves our treatment works it is free from lead, but on the journey to your tap it may pick up lead.
There are no lead water mains in use within our region, but you may have lead pipework from the water main into your property and lead pipework inside your home if it was built before 1970. Some other pipes such as galvanised iron can also release lead into the water.
If you discover lead pipes in your home, we recommend that this pipework is removed and replaced.
As lead is a toxic substance, it is sensible to consume as little lead as possible particularly if you are pregnant or in the case of young children and bottle fed babies.
There are strict regulations governing the maximum amount of lead allowed in drinking water.
The current UK legal limit is 10 μg/l (micrograms per litre or parts per billion). It is unusual for water from taps in our region to exceed this limit.
If you have concerns that your water may contain elevated levels of lead, contact us and we will arrange to take a sample of the water from your kitchen tap and test it for you.
When was your house built?
First it is worth finding out when your home was built.
If it was built:
• from 1985 onwards there shouldn't be lead present in your plumbing system
• between 1970 and 1985 it is unlikely you will have lead pipes but lead based solder may have been used to join the copper pipes
• before 1970 you may have lead pipes in your plumbing system.
Checking for external lead pipes
To check the pipes outside your property, open the external stop tap cover (most often in the street) and examine the visible pipes.
In some cases you may find it difficult to access this stop tap, or may not know where it is located. If so, please contact us to arrange an inspection.
Checking for internal lead pipes
The best place to check for lead pipes is where the water pipe enters your home - this is usually the internal stop tap which may be under the kitchen sink, behind cupboards in the kitchen or under the stairs.
If you can see the pipes, lead is generally thicker than other metallic pipe materials and is also easier to scratch using a coin, for example.
Unpainted lead pipes look dull grey in colour and are also soft - if you gently scrape the pipe you will see shiny, silver coloured metal.
Lead pipes are generally thicker than copper or plastic and usually have swollen joints where they meet other pipes.
If you tap a lead pipe it will create a 'dull' sound rather than the clear ringing sound heard from copper or iron pipes.
If you are unsure, you could ask a plumber to carry out this check for you.
TOP TIP: The best way to reduce lead in your water is to remove any lead pipework within your home or better still from your property boundary.
If you have lead pipes, you can reduce the levels of lead in the water you use with these simple tips:
Only use water from the kitchen cold water tap for drinking and cooking. Don't use water from the hot tap for these purposes.
Flush the tap before you drink as lead can dissolve into water if it stands in lead pipes. Run the tap and use that water to give your plants a drink instead!
TOP TIP: If you want to replace your service pipe,
to arrange for a free water quality sample to be taken from your kitchen tap to test the level of lead.
For permanent peace of mind we would advise that all the lead pipework in your property is removed and replaced.
We would encourage you to consider replacing any internal lead plumbing and advise you to obtain several quotations from reputable plumbers.
Your plumber should be able to advise you further if you need more detail on plumbing materials or Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations.
In some areas we have adjusted the way we treat water to cause an internal lining to form in lead pipes. This helps to reduce the amount of lead that is directly in contact with the water.
This will only reduce lead pick up and will not completely prevent it. The only way to stop lead from entering the water is to remove or replace the lead pipe.
Properties where there are no lead pipes or where lead pipes have already been replaced will not be affected.