Facts About Lead Levels and
Fairfax Water's System
What is the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for lead in
When lead testing is performed as required by Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), 90 percent of the samples must contain less
than 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. EPA has established an
action level for lead in water of 15 ppb, meaning that a water
system with more than 15 ppb of lead in 10 percent of its samples
may require 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 Lead and Copper Rule since
1992 and has consistently tested below the action level established
by the rule.
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 2011, 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 in 2011, 100 percent of the
Fairfax Water samples contained less than 6 ppb of lead and 90
percent of our samples contained less than 0.80 ppb.
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 dusts, paint chips, or soil containing
lead; and the amount of water consumed daily. For women, pregnancy
can also affect blood-lead levels. 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 since 1998. 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.
Some people choose to install a
water filter in their home. 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?
For information about having a lead level test conducted, call our
Customer Service Department at 703-698-5800, TTY 711. Fairfax Water
offers lead level testing to Fairfax Water customers for $35 per
faucet. Independent certified laboratories are also available if
preferred and can be found at:
or by calling 804-225-4949, 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 April 2012):
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.