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City of Philadelphia

What Can I Do If I Have Lead Pipes?

Meeting Lead Standards

Philadelphia’s water quality continues to meet all State and Federal standards. Philadelphia Water successfully passed the most recent round of water quality testing for lead at customers’ taps. Learn more and see the results of those tests here.

If you find that you have a lead service line, call (215) 685-6300 to request to have your water tested for lead or volunteer to have your home take part in the Philadelphia Water Department’s Lead and Copper sampling program, which will take place during the summer of 2017.

Please note that simply having a lead service line does not mean your home’s water has high levels of lead. Anti-corrosion control treatment, performed in Philadelphia for more than 20 years, has been shown to be effective in keeping lead levels in 90% or more of the city’s homes below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard of fifteen parts per billion (15ppb).

Where high lead levels in water have been detected, the source has usually been traced to a plumbing fixture. It is always recommended that homeowners remove all potential sources of lead in plumbing when possible.

In addition to replacing lead pipes and plumbing, there are immediate steps you can take to reduce the chances of lead exposure related to water use.

Short-term Steps to Protect Your Family from Lead in Water

Always Drink Fresh Water

Avoid drinking water that has been sitting in your home’s pipes for several hours, especially if you have lead plumbing or pipes.

If you have not used the water in your home for a few hours, turn on the cold water faucet at the sinks where you get water for drinking and cooking (your kitchen tap and bathroom tap, for example) and let the water run for 2-3 minutes. You should be able to feel the water get colder when fresh water from the City water main in the street reaches your tap.

Tip: The further your home is from the City water main, the longer it will take to bring in fresh water. While this may seem wasteful, tap water costs less than a penny per gallon, and most home pipes can be cleared by running just a few gallons through the tap.

Other household water uses like washing clothes, showering, or flushing the toilet are also good ways to bring fresh water from our system into your home plumbing.

Even if you do not have lead plumbing in your house, water may become stale after sitting in your home plumbing for several hours. Running your tap for a short period of time allows you to use the fresh, cold water in the City water mains for drinking and cooking.

Clearing Plumbing After Pipes Are Disturbed

If you have had construction or street work on your block or had your service line either partially or fully replaced, please see our instructions for more intensive flushing. This may be needed to remove debris, such as rust, and will help to coat lead pipes with zinc orthophosphate, the chemical approved for use by the Philadelphia Water Department for corrosion control treatment.

Regularly Clean Your Faucet Aerator

Small pieces of loose lead solder or lead scale and flakes from old pipes can get trapped on the screen inside your faucet. Not all faucets have ready access to screens and aerators, so follow instructions provided by the faucet manufacturer. Faucets are now required to be lead-free in order to be sold in the store.

Read our tip sheet for instructions on cleaning aerators, smart daily flushing tips, and other important information for customers who own lead pipes.

Use Filters Approved for Lead Removal

Customers in homes with small children, breastfeeding and pregnant mothers, or other individuals most at risk for the harmful effects of lead exposure should consider using an approved water filter if lead pipes are present.

The EPA provides information about filters approved for reducing lead in water.

Make sure you are using a National Sanitary Foundation (NSF) NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or Standard 58 filter. Most standard pitcher-style filters are not designed to remove lead.

Tip: Save this guide to your phone before going to the store. You can also use this NSF search page before purchasing a filter. Be sure to select Standard 53/Standard 58 in the “Product Standard” drop-down menu, or check “lead” under the “Reduction Claims for Drinking Water Treatment Units - Health Effects” category after you enter the name of the product.

Important: Always follow instructions for maintaining and replacing water filters. Failing to do so can make your water unsafe in a number of ways.

Please see our Programs to Help Customers Remove Lead Service Lines page to learn more about replacing a lead service line in your home.

How Can I Get My Water Tested?

Philadelphia Water will conduct free lead tests for customers. If you believe you have lead plumbing in your home and would like to have someone check your water, call our hotline at 215-685-6300 to schedule an appointment.

Maintaining Household Plumbing