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City of Philadelphia

Lead FAQ

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.

What is lead?

Lead can be found in many parts of our environment—air, soil, water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a metal that is found naturally all over the world. It can be toxic to humans and animals if it is swallowed or inhaled.

Lead exposure is considered a health risk, and all communities should work to make homes lead-free, including in private drinking water pipes. Lead service lines can be unpredictable and pipes that corrode can be major sources of lead exposure.

Where is lead found?

Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products, like paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, gasoline, batteries, and cosmetics. As we’ve learned more about the dangers of lead, it has been banned in plumbing, paint, gasoline and most consumer products. Because so many homes and businesses in Philadelphia were built before lead was banned, homes can still have lead-based paint and lead plumbing.

Why is lead in water a concern for some customers?

The Philadelphia Water Department delivers water to homes and businesses virtually lead-free. We use corrosion control treatment designed to control lead found in a building’s plumbing from entering drinking water. Following state and federal regulations that ensure safe drinking water, cities across the U.S. effectively address lead plumbing issues in the same way: by reducing the natural corrosive qualities of water.

Lead can be found in lead pipes, plumbing parts made of brass, solder used to join copper pipe, and faucets that were purchased and installed prior to 2014, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new guidelines for all plumbing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The biggest source of lead in tap water is old lead pipe. Therefore, it is recommended that homeowners replace any lead pipes as soon possible. Every home has different plumbing and we cannot determine if your water has lead in it unless it has been tested.

How do I check my home for lead?

What can I do if I have lead pipes?

What programs are available for lead line replacement?

What type of lead testing is available in Philadelphia?

What is corroision control?

Whether Philadelphia’s water sources, the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, are free of lead or not, the Philadelphia Water Department treats the water to remove lead and other contaminants. This means treated drinking water meets all state and federal water quality standards. The danger of lead getting into water occurs when homes have lead in the plumbing. To protect customers with lead pipes, we treat drinking water with zinc orthophosphate. This coats the inside of pipes, preventing lead from leaching into the water. This is the most accepted practice in the United States.

How can I get my water tested?

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

What is the Lead and Copper Rule and how does it apply to the Philadelphia Water Department?

This timeline provides an overview of existing and future outreach, testing and lead water service line replacement efforts conducted by the Philadelphia Water Department under the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates how water utilities measure the effectiveness of corrosion control treatment conducted to prevent lead pipes in homes from breaking down. Read this to learn about our testing program and what we do to help customers replace lead pipes.

What does the Philadelphia Department of Public Health say about lead?

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health works closely with families when children are found to have elevated blood lead levels. To help customers understand that lead paint and dust are much more common sources of lead, they answered a number of frequently asked questions about lead and water.

How do I make sure I’m getting the freshest water from the City main?

  • Flush your pipes before drinking, and only use cold water for cooking and drinking. Anytime the water has not been used for several hours, flush cold water pipes by running the water for a few minutes until it becomes cold.
  • Consider replacing lead-containing plumbing fixtures. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) now requires that only lead-free pipes, solder or flux be used in the installation or repair of any plumbing used to provide water for human consumption. The EPA currently states that plumbing fittings and fixtures (such as kitchen and bathroom faucets) should be certified according to NSF/ANSI 372 NSF/ANSI Standard 61 for lead reduction.
  • View this guide on plumbing fixtures to see examples of certification marks placed on approved, lead-free plumbing fixtures. It can be downloaded to your phone and used as a helpful guide while shopping at hardware or plumbing supply stores.

How do I know if I have lead pipes?

Click here for additional information.

With hundreds of thousands properties in the city, we need assistance in figuring out which properties to test for lead. Customers can help us determine the likelihood of their home having a lead pipe that connects to the City water main by finding out if:

If you can, call a licensed and registered plumber and have them look at your service line. They can tell you if it is made from lead and give you an estimate for replacement.

Tip: A good time to have your line replaced is during water main replacement on your street. As this can save costs, we notify homeowners about replacing lines as we install new water mains. Customers should get a letter about six months before mains on their street are replaced, and more outreach will follow as construction starts. During water main replacement, this service is free to property owners. See our page about replacing lead service lines.

Need HELP? If you are unable to afford the cost of replacing a lead service line, you may qualify for the Philadelphia Water Department’s zero-interest Homeowner Emergency Loan Program (HELP). Please call our hotline at (215) 685-6300 to learn more.

How can I test my home's drinking water?

Click here for additional information.

Testing your home's drinking water is the only way to confirm if lead is present. The Philadelphia Water Department, like most water providers, tests for lead at a number of homes as a regular part of water monitoring. These tests give a system-wide picture of whether or not corrosion is being controlled, but they do not reflect conditions at each home.

Since each home has different plumbing, pipes and materials, test results are likely to be different for each home.

EPA recommends using a certified laboratory for testing. Lists of approved labs in the Philadelphia area are available from the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). Call 717-346-7200 to find the closest lab to your home and schedule an appointment.

Philadelphia Water Department Testing for Customers
If you believe you have lead plumbing and cannot afford an at-home test from an EPA-approved lab, call our hotline at (215) 685-6300.

A customer service representative will take your name, address and phone number to contact you about an appointment with employees who can test your water. Depending on volume of appointments, this may take a few weeks.

More: You can get more information about lead testing resources by calling the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

How Can I Get My Water Tested?

Philadelphia Water Department will conduct free lead tests for residential 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.

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