Facts About Lead Levels and
Fairfax Water's System
What is the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for lead in
Lead standards in drinking water are regulated by the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The LCR states that 90 percent of samples
analyzed must be less than the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). If more than 10 percent of the samples exceed the
action level, a utility is required to take action which may include changes to the water treatment process, replacement of
lead service lines, and public outreach. Fairfax Water has been testing for lead in accordance with the LCR since 1992 and
has consistently tested below the action level.
Does Fairfax Water have elevated levels of
lead in its drinking water?
No. Testing in accordance with the EPA has demonstrated that there are no elevated levels of lead in the drinking water provided
by Fairfax Water. Since testing began in the early 1990s, Fairfax Water’s levels have tested well within the EPA’s compliance
standards. In the most recent Lead and Copper Rule sampling period for Fairfax Water, 100 percent of the samples tested were
significantly below the EPA action level of 15 ppb. In fact, during the sampling period, 100 percent of the Fairfax Water samples
contained less than 1.5 ppb of lead.
What is the relationship between the EPA
action level for drinking water and lead levels in the blood?
The EPA action level of 15 ppb of lead in drinking water was established based on reasonable risk assessments. It is the level that
requires additional corrective and educational actions, but does not necessarily directly correlate to increased blood-lead levels.
Blood-lead levels are reflective of a variety of factors, such as age, exposure to materials containing lead (such as paint, dust,
and soil), and the amount of water consumed daily. Nationally, the biggest source of increased blood-lead levels in children is the
ingestion of lead-based paint chips.
What are the health effects of too much
If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. For infants
and children, exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical or mental development. Infants who
consume mostly mixed formula can receive a greater percentage because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their
body size. For adults, exposure to high levels of lead can result in kidney problems or high blood pressure. Although the main sources
of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, the EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may
come from drinking water.
How does lead get into drinking water?
Although some utilities use source waters that contain lead, Fairfax Water’s water sources (the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir)
do not contain lead. Lead in drinking water can also come from pipes and valves within the distribution system. Fairfax Water’s
distribution system does not contain lead pipe as we have made an extensive effort to identify and replace any lead service connections
in the older areas of our system.
Another source of lead in drinking water is household plumbing. In 1986, lead was banned from being used
in pipe and solder for drinking water systems. In older homes, where lead is present in pipe and solder connections, it may dissolve
into the water after the water sits for long periods of time. Some household plumbing components may contain a small amount of lead
and can contribute to lead concentrations at the tap.
What is Fairfax Water doing to minimize
lead exposure from my plumbing system?
Fairfax Water adds a corrosion inhibitor to help prevent lead from leaching into your drinking water. We have been using a
phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor for over a decade. Adjustments are made to the finished water pH during the treatment
process to minimize corrosion from household plumbing.
What can I do in my home to reduce exposure
to lead in drinking water?
Any time the water has been sitting unused for six hours or longer, flush your
cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes a constant temperature. Saving the water for other
purposes, such as plant watering, is a good conservation measure.
Use only water from the cold-water
tap for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby
formula. Hot water may contain higher levels of lead.
Install a water filter. If you choose to do so, follow these three important suggestions:
1. Choose one designed for the specific filtration desired, such
2. Make sure the filter is approved by the National Sanitation
3. Maintain the filter as directed by the manufacturer.
How do I have
the water in my home tested?
Fairfax Water’s certified drinking water laboratory does offer lead testing to its customers for a fee. To make arrangements to
have your water tested for lead, contact our Customer Service Department at 703-698-5800, TTY 711. Independent certified
laboratories are also available and a list of these laboratories may be found on the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory
Services website at:
or by calling 1-866-493-1087, TTY 711.
Where can I find more information about
lead in drinking water?
Information about lead is also available on the following Web sites
(as of February 2016):
Additional information is available from
the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791; TTY 711
Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST.