What might be the source of my high lead levels in drinking water?

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Old 06-24-11, 02:43 PM
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What might be the source of my high lead levels in drinking water?

I had my water tested and the city says it has high lead levels. The pipes do not attract a magnet. They are threaded and use some sort of thread (oakum?) where plumbing tape would be used today. When I scrape the surface of the straight pipes they appear to be copper and I do see some blue green rust here and there. The elbows appear more yellow or silver (depending on which light I use), some are stamped 'Lee'. There are a few fittings that are transitions from one size to another, and a few couplings. All the pipes are exposed and I did not see anything that was not a casting. I think lead pipe is poured on site. Any ideas on how I can identify the source of the lead?

The lead test required 2 bottles to be filled. The first is filled immediately after opening the tap and showed little lead. The second bottle to be filled after 1-2 minutes of letting the water run showed high lead levels. I would say the water runs 100 ft from the basement wall around to the tap and I guess another 20 ft to the main line in the street. The house is in Brooklyn NY and is more than 100 years old. The line that emerges from the basement wall is comparatively new copper. The city sent me a second lead test kit with 3 bottles.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 02:46 PM
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Without seeing things, I would say the primary line from the meter to the house is lead, which would give high lead levels. Bad news is it's YOURS and not the city's. Post a few pix of what you have in the house so we can see what you have. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html
I've never seen oakum on a supply line.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 03:25 PM
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Pictures of plumbing

I hope these are what you need to see.

Entry into house


Water meter hook up - rotate 45 deg clockwise


Transition from meter to house plumbing. - rotate 45 deg clockwise


Typical plumbing near water heater


Entry into Kitchen
 
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Old 06-24-11, 03:29 PM
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I do not know what material they used to seal the threads. It appears to be twine perhaps with some wax on it.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 03:38 PM
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It looks like sweated copper with some brass fittings, galv, etc..

The lead source is probably from a lead service line from the street to entry in the home.

Those pics are to small for use old folk. Post the link so we can magnify. Also talk close up of pipe that enters the home and transitions to copper.

Plus old plumbing used lead solder to join the pipes back when.

I dont know when that stopped but I remeber using lead solder in the 80's. I think 1988 we stopped using leaded solder. I will have to look it up.



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Old 06-24-11, 04:16 PM
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Entry of water line into the house
water line just before the water meter - rotate 45 degrees clockwise
water line just after the water meter - rotate 45 degrees clockwise
Water line near the hot water heater.
Water line entry into kitchen

Thanks for all your help. I think these will appear larger. The line from the meter to the area near the hot water heater seems to have the same sort of pipe so I did not show it.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 04:29 PM
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Old 06-24-11, 06:17 PM
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Leaded solder was banned from plumbing use in October of 1986. Any copper piping installed prior to January 1987 would be assumed to have used lead-based solder until tested and proven to be lead free. I personally would suspect any soldered piping done prior to January of 1988 or any work done by a handyman or homeowner.

You have a conglomeration of materials there. I see Galvanized steel piping, soldered copper piping, what appears to be brass piping and even some piping that appears to be black steel without galvanizing. Taking into consideration the date of the lead ban I would say that more likely as not at least some of the soldered copper joints were made with lead-bearing solder and IF the person that did it was sloppy there may be a significant amount of solder inside the fitting. Water standing in these pipes for any significant period of time (overnight) will leech lead from the solder to the point of it showing in a water test.

You may very well also have a lead bend between the city water main and the "curb stop" shut-off valve for your house. Lead bends were common at the time your house was built. If you can somehow take a water sample right where the water piping enters the house this could confirm the problem is outside the house.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 09:47 AM
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Thanks for the advice. The water pipe enters the house parallel to the street in front, not perpendicular. So the water most likely runs under the street, makes a 90 degree turn runs into my property and then makes another 90 degree turn. So there are plenty of places for there to be a lead pipe. Once again thanks.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 11:03 AM
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Let us know what you find when you do find it.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 01:08 PM
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The lead bend, if present, is almost always at the connection to the main. Its purpose was to allow differential movement (settling) of either the main or the branch piping without breaking the pipe connections. It would be unusual to find a lead bend anywhere but at the main.

Soldered piping underground is mostly prohibited and has been for a very long time. If your lead is coming from outside your house it IS the problem of the water utility. Getting them to fix the problem may be a bigger problem than the lead itself.
 
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Old 08-08-11, 05:04 AM
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I was asked to keep the board posted about my lead issue so here are the most recent lead test results.

First test results: First Draw: 2 μg/L, 1-2 minute flush 30 μg/L
Second test results: First Draw: 2 μg/L, 1-2 minute flush 0 μg/L, 5 minute flush 0 μg/L

The first test result was alarming. So now the question is if the second is the accurate one? Does the lead level just jump up now and again, and is that a problem? Evidently I can also volunteer to have my tap water checked twice a year at city expense, part of the program is a plumber will be provided to inspect my plumbing, not sure if I will take advantage of that program.
 
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Old 08-08-11, 09:38 AM
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hi geo8rge

In each of those 2 tests where each included 2 draws, did you do the first draw in each after letting the water sit in the pipes overnight? Does the second draw after 2 minutes returning a higher lead level than the first draw mean there is a source of lead upstream from the piping far from the faucet? Like the service pipe to the house? Just wondering. This stuff is a little complicated as far as Im concerned.

I did the lead test also. Im on well water. I thought that the first draw result is usually higher because you are sampling water that has been sitting in the pipes overnight and thus has had higher contact time with the lead (wherever it is) in the piping system.

But when you let the water run for a while, and then sample, the lead content should be lower because of less contact time with the lead. I believe thats why authorities say let your water run for a while before you drink it (I also count my Mother as an authority in that case . lol)

But you seem to be seeing more lead after you let the water run but not all the time (i.e. test 2)?

What does that mean? lol (Not a big help am I if Im asking you!lol)
 
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Old 08-08-11, 04:31 PM
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If the water sits for a long period, it will allow lead to accumulate in the pipes. Things like lead solder and the brass in plumbing fixtures will leach lead into the water. That is the reason they say to let the water run for a bit before you drink it. The same goes for garden hoses. Unless they are for potable water, they contain lead.
 
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Old 08-24-11, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by zoesdad View Post
hi geo8rge

In each of those 2 tests where each included 2 draws, did you do the first draw in each after letting the water sit in the pipes overnight?

But you seem to be seeing more lead after you let the water run but not all the time (i.e. test 2)?

What does that mean? lol (Not a big help am I if Im asking you!lol)
I actually was on vacation for a long weekend before both tests, so it was standing for a number of days.

In New York City the water comes from upstate so there are a few hundred miles of civil engineering where the lead might have come from. Or maybe it was a 'testing error'. Or maybe the second test with less lead was a testing error.
 
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