Well Water Testing Analysis and Contamination in MA and NH – Lead in water

The fifth post in our series highlighting some of the contaminants that can be found in water wells. Northeast Water Wells is available to collect samples and test your well water for contaminants anytime.

If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important. Northeast Water Wells recommends testing your well at least every two years. Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts on the earth’s outer layer. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Much of our exposure is the result of human activities including use of fossil fuels, past use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paints, mining, and manufacturing.

Lead is found in many different materials. It can still be found in lead-based paint, batteries, ammunition, metal products such as solder and pipes, and devices to shield X-rays. Because of health concerns, the amount of lead found in gasoline, paints and ceramic products, caulking, and pipe solder has been reduced in recent years. As a result, the amount of lead in our blood now is much less than it was 30 years ago.

Where and how does lead get into drinking water?

Lead rarely occurs naturally in water; it usually gets into the water from the delivery system. Lead pipes are the main contributor to high lead levels in tap water. Other sources include parts of the water delivery system such as lead solder used to join copper pipes, brass in faucets, coolers, and valves. Although brass usually contains low lead levels, the lead can still dissolve into the water, especially when the fixtures are new. Private wells more than 20 years old may contain lead in the “packer” element that is used to help seal the well above the well screen. Some brands of older submersible pumps used in wells may also contain leaded-brass components. Corrosion of pipes and fixture parts can cause the lead to get into tap water. Rarely, lead gets into water from the erosion of natural underground deposits or industrial activity.

What are the health effects of Lead in drinking water?

Lead contamination poses a serious threat to the safety of drinking water. This colorless, tasteless, and odorless heavy metal can easily go undetected in drinking water. Excessive amounts of lead place adults at higher risk for cancer, stroke, and hypertension. Lead is even more harmful for the very young and pregnant women. Fetuses, infants, and children up to the age of six have rapidly growing little bodies which are quick and efficient absorbers of lead. Lead can cause miscarriage, premature birth, reduced birth weight, seizures, brain damage and behavioral disorders. In most cases this damage is irreversible. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers lead the most serious environmental health hazard for children in the United States. Many lead toxicologists agree and have even suggested that EPA’s lead standard for children’s drinking water be more strict than that for adults.

What are EPA’s drinking water regulations for lead?

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) The MCLG for lead is zero. EPA has set this level based on the best available science which shows there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

For most contaminants, EPA sets an enforceable regulation called a maximum contaminant level (MCL) based on the MCLG. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as possible. However, because lead contamination of drinking water often results from corrosion of the plumbing materials, EPA established a treatment technique rather than an MCL for lead. A treatment technique (TT) is an enforceable procedure or level of technological performance which water systems must follow to ensure control of a contaminant. The treatment technique regulation for lead (referred to as the Lead and Copper rule) requires water systems to control the corrosivity of the water. The MCL Action Level for treatment technique for Lead is 0.015mg/L (milligrams per liter of water).

How do I remove lead from my drinking water?

First, try to identify and remove the lead source. Check your well and pump for potential lead sources.

Heating or boiling your water will not remove lead. Because some of the water evaporates during the boiling process, the lead concentration of the water can actually increase slightly as the water is boiled.

If it is not possible or cost-effective to remove the lead source, flushing the water system before using the water for drinking or cooking may be an option. Any time a particular faucet has not been used for several hours (approximately 6 or more), you can flush the system by running the water for about 1-2 minutes or until the water becomes as cold as it will get. Flush each faucet individually before using the water for drinking or cooking. You can use the water flushed from the tap to water plants, wash dishes or clothing, or clean. Avoid cooking with or drinking hot tap water because hot water dissolves lead more readily than cold water does. Do not use hot tap water to make cereal, drinks or mix baby formula. You may draw cold water after flushing the tap and then heat it if needed.

You may also want to consider water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, distillation, and carbon filters specially designed to remove lead. Typically these methods are used to treat water at only one faucet.

Northeast Water Wells offers a variety of testing packages to take care of all of your water needs. Call today to set up a time for us to collect a sample of your water. All of our testing is done through a state certified analytical lab.

If you live in Massachusetts you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

If you live in New Hampshire you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

Article written by Karen Provencher, Northeast Water Wells

At Northeast Water Wells Inc our services are not limited to water well drilling and pump installation we also have a plethora of other services available. Northeast water wells experienced technicians also specialize in Artesian Water Well Abandonment, Well Rehabilitation, Water Well Chlorination, Submersible water pumps, Jet pumps, Constant Pressure Pumps, Pressure Boosting Pumps, Solar/ wind powered pumping systems. Water Pressure holding tanks, Atmospheric Water Holding tanks, Water Quality/ Quantity testing, water conditioning and treatment, filtration, sanitizers, water softeners, hydro fracture, zone fracture, Water Well Maintenance, Real Estate Transfer testing and Well Efficiency Audits.

Covering Massachusetts and New Hampshire since 1966.
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