When it comes to the risk of exposure to lead — and its serious health impacts — there’s more than one place to look. Since lead was once used in everything from gasoline to household plumbing to paint, the toxic element can be found in many places in our community.
And while there’s not lead in the water Denver Water delivers to your home, the risk of lead leaching into clean water increases if you have lead pipes or plumbing fixtures.
If you’re wondering whether your drinking water is contributing to your risk for lead exposure, the first place to check is your service line, the pipe that connects your home to the water main in the street.
National Public Radio created an interactive online tool to help residents take on this task, but it’s best to see this tool as a starting point.
“While we encourage you to check your line by doing this simple “scratch” test, keep its limits in mind,” said Steve Price, a civil engineer who coordinates Denver Water’s efforts to reduce the community’s lead exposure. “This test tells you what you can see, but you still can’t see what’s buried underground.”
It’s not unusual to learn a service line contains two or even three different metals, because many have been replaced in sections with various materials over time. If yours is made of lead or galvanized steel, we encourage you to replace it. Galvanized pipes, if connected in tandem with a lead pipe, can attract and later release lead particles into drinking water, potentially affecting the quality of your water.
“Any time two metals come together, that point becomes more corrosive,” Price said. “The pipe is more likely to corrode and release particles attached on the inside, including iron — which causes discoloration — and lead.”
So why not just call Denver Water to ask what your service line is made of? Here’s why: Denver Water doesn’t own the service lines. You do. So we don’t have records of exactly when and where plumbers and builders installed lead pipes. In many cases, you may not have these records either.
To get a more definitive answer, consider hiring an experienced, licensed plumber for service line testing and, if applicable, replacement work. You can also take other steps to reduce your risk of lead exposure, including requesting a water quality test for lead from Denver Water.