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Lead in Drinking Water in Washtenaw County

Sources of drinking water in our area – whether groundwater or surface water (larger municipal systems) – do not contain high levels of naturally occurring lead. However, lead can leach into water supplies through lead pipe and lead based solder. The use of these products has been phased out over time, so they are more likely to be present in homes built prior to 1986.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects, particularly in young children. Much of the lead in our environment comes from burning fossil fuels, mining and manufacturing. People can be exposed to lead in many ways, including eating food or drinking water that contains lead; spending time in areas where lead-based paints are deteriorating; working in a job where lead is used; using health-care products or folk remedies that contain lead; or engaging in hobbies that use lead-based products (stained glass, ceramics, etc.). See our Lead Poisoning web page for more information on these sources of lead.


Three tips to reduce lead in drinking water


Tips to reduce lead in drinking water

Run the faucet before drinking. Run the kitchen tap (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) until the water runs cold - usually 30 to 60 seconds - before using the water for drinking or cooking. The most likely way for lead to enter the water supply is by leaching due to prolonged (6+ hr.) contact with the lead source (pipe or fitting). [Note: If you are on a municipal system with a known lead service line, the flushing time is greater - 5 minutes. This situation does not apply to well systems since lead service lines aren’t used in private wells.]

Use COLD water for drinking, eating or cooking. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get before using. Boiling the water does NOT remove any lead from the water!

Use water filters or treatment devices. Devices that are not designed to remove lead will not work, so make sure that the package states it will remove lead. Also, make sure you are purchasing and using a product that is certified to remove lead. NSF International, Underwriters Laboratories , and Water Quality Association are agencies that certify water filtration products.

Testing for lead in water

If you have a concern about the lead content of your water supply, you can purchase a lead water sample analysis bottle through our office. The cost for the analysis is $15. You purchase the bottle, then take it home and collect a sample. As with our recommendation for consumption, we recommend that you run a “flushed” sample analysis, by running the water until cold prior to collecting the sample. You then bring the bottle back to our office and it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results are generally available within 3-5 business days.

Water supplies

Residential water supplies served by individual wells in Washtenaw County are regulated through our office. Since lead is unlikely to be naturally occurring in the groundwater in our area, we do not require lead sampling for individual residential water supply wells. If you have an older home with lead piping or plumbing fittings, there can be an increased potential for lead consumption, but this should be resolved by flushing the stagnant water as described above. 

Municipal water supplies must compile operational and testing information concerning the water supply and publish an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The CCR is distributed to all users of the system. If you are on municipal water and did not receive a copy of the latest report, then you should request a copy from the supplier. Municipal supplies (also known as Type 1) are regulated by the Community Water Supply Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)

Testing for lead in children

If you have questions or concerns about your child's exposure to lead, please contact your pediatrician for a lead blood level test.

Washtenaw County Public Health now offers free blood lead testing for children up to 6 years old with Medicaid or who are uninsured. Please call 734-544-6700 to schedule an appointment.

For questions about childrens' exposure to lead, please contact Jane Nickert, Public Health Nursing Director, at (734) 544-9735.

Other resources

Lead in tap water - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Lead in drinking water - US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Lead in drinking water - NSF International

Lead poisoning - Washtenaw County Environmental Health

For more information, please contact Washtenaw County Environmental Health at (734) 222-3800.

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