Lead in Drinking Water

What is lead?

Lead is a common naturally occurring metallic element that can be found in air, soil, and water. It is also a powerful toxin that is harmful to human health. Lead was commonly used in gasoline and paint until the 1970s and is still sometimes found in products such as ceramics, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics. Lead was used for centuries in plumbing because of its pliability and resistance to leaks; in fact, lead’s chemical symbol, Pb, is derived from the Latin word for plumbing.

In 1986, U.S. Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to prohibit the use of pipes, solder, or flux that were not “lead-free.” At the time lead-free was defined as solder and flux with no more than .2% lead and pipes with no more than 8%. In 2014, the maximum allowable lead content was reduced from not more than 8% to not more than a weighted average of 0.25% of the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.


Where does lead in drinking water come from? 

Learn about lead in drinking water and how it gets there by checking out this infographic from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The drinking water from LCA’s water sources (creeks, springs, and wells) is lead-free! However, if buildings have water pipes made of lead or plumbing containing lead, there is a risk of having lead get into the water. This is important for customers to understand because customers must be engaged in solutions to reduce the risk of lead exposure!

IMPORTANT NOTE: The risk of lead exposure will vary from home to home. In some homes, the risk may be from lead-based paint. This continues to be the primary area of concern by public health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control.  

Download LCA Fact Sheet # 1: About Lead in Drinking Water

Exposure to lead through water is controlled by LCA’s efforts to ensure our water does not contain corrosive properties that will contribute to lead leaching from the pipes it travels through to get to your tap. While the water leaving the treatment plant does not contain lead, homes serviced by lead service lines have the potential to accumulate lead in the water. Homes built before 1960 have a greater possibility of being serviced by a lead service line. In 1986, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (ADWA) limited the use of lead as a material in public water supplies and in residential or non-residential facility drinking water plumbing (US EPA Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, 1986).


Are there lead pipes at my home?

Having a lead service line does not mean high levels of lead in your home’s drinking water. The corrosion control treatment used by LCA has shown to be effective in minimizing lead leaching into drinking water and is compliant with EPA regulations for lead.

If you have a lead service line, lead plumbing, brass fixtures, copper plumbing with lead solder, a water softener, or other treatments system, these are all potential sources of lead exposure to your tap water. 

Download LCA Fact Sheet # 2: How to Check Your Home for Lead Pipes


When it comes to service lines, maintenance, and repairs, what is the property owner’s responsibility?

A common question customers have is what is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain and repair? Select the link below for your service area to view a helpful diagram that explains the property owner’s responsibility:

City of Allentown Division Customer Responsibilities Explained

Suburban Division Customer Responsibilities Explained


You can take steps to reduce lead exposure in your home!

There are ways to lower lead exposure in your home, such as cleaning faucet aerators.

Download LCA Fact Sheet # 3: Easy Ways to Reduce Lead Exposure: Rinse Your Pipes & Clean Your Aerators


LCA Water Testing

Currently, LCA tests for lead in tap water every three years at 50 representative taps of vulnerable homes in the City of Allentown and at more than 150 homes across all of our service areas in Lehigh and Northampton counties. We do this according to the requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. The testing results are used to determine if our water continues to be non-corrosive, so that water has minimum potential for lead to leach from plumbing materials. So far, our test results show that the non-corrosive properties of LCA’s water are working to keep lead levels to a minimum.

Have your water tested!

LCA offers free lead water testing to customers. Contact service@lehighcountyauthority.org to schedule a pickup of a sample collection kit. LCA will provide the results of the analysis once complete.

Click Here to view the latest results from LCA’s water systems


Other Resources:

Download results from our May water testing with results reported in June 2016

Advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about lead in drinking water

EPA Reference Guide on the Lead & Copper Rule for Water Utilities