How To: Identify Lead Service Lines

It's estimated that millions of Americans are drinking water that contains lead – a heavy metal known to cause serious health effects such as brain damage and learning disabilities.

A main cause of lead in drinking water is due to service lines - pieces of pipe that connect the water main (the pipe that travels from a water treatment plant) to your home.

Using our guide below, you can easily identify if your private service line is made from lead.

Step 1: Find your water meter

Your water meter connects to the service line, the main cause of lead in water. The water meter can be located outside or inside, usually in a basement, crawlspace, or garage.

The water meter can be outside (left) or inside, usually in a garage, basement, or crawlspace (right).

Step 2: Find the exit pipe

If your water meter is outside, walk the shortest distance to your house. This is where the pipe will enter your home. Go inside and find it. If your water meter is inside, the pipe is connected to it. The pipe will have a valve on it that looks something like the pictures below.

The area you want to check is the red-circled areas. This is the section of pipe leaving the valve and exiting the house through the floor or wall. It can be between 1" - 12" and be slightly buried.

Step 3: Identify the material.

Now that you've found the part of the pipe you want to check, we need to figure out what it is made of. Plastic/PVC? Good news – it’s not lead. If the pipe is metal, gently scratch it with a key or coin. Is it orange and shiny? If so, it’s made of copper. If it’s a silver, grey, white, or blue color, hold a magnet to it.

Does the magnet stick?

If so, your pipes are probably galvanized steel. If not, it's likely your pipe is lead.

This guide is intended for screening and should not be used to certify water in accordance with EPA standards. Even without a lead service line, it is still possible lead pipes, fittings or solder are in your plumbing system - especially if your home was built before 1986. It’s probably a good idea to use a filter certified to remove lead (it should say “NSF/ANSI Standard 53” on the package).

For further reading check out:

NPR: Do you have lead pipes in your home?

#safewater #cleanwater #leadfree