FAQs about Lead in Drinking Water

U.S. water operators are required to comply with all federal Safe Drinking Water Act rules and state regulations, including the Lead and Copper Rule. The City of Columbus is in compliance with all state and federal drinking water regulations. The Division of Water's highly qualified professionals take their jobs of protecting public health by providing safe drinking water very seriously. When compliance issues arise, the city promptly notifies the media and customers. There is no lead in the treated water that leaves the three Columbus water plants, nor in the source water these plants use. None of the water mains in the Columbus system are made of lead; they are made of cast iron, ductile iron or concrete, and a few are plastic. However, because some water service lines, home plumbing, fixtures and solder may contain lead materials or parts, precautions are taken to prevent lead from leaching into the water customers rely on at the tap. Below are frequently asked questions and answers on lead in water.

What does the City of Columbus do to prevent lead from getting into tap water?

Columbus has a very effective corrosion protection program. To prevent corrosive conditions that could cause leaching of lead, certified water operators add zinc orthophosphate to the treated water at a cost of $1,800 a day. This creates a coating inside the pipes to serve as barrier between the pipes and water. This protects public health and the city's infrastructure by avoiding corrosive conditions that could lead to premature pipe failure.

Testing is done to ensure this corrosion protection program continues to perform well. Various site samples are voluntarily tested monthly for lead. As required by Ohio EPA, 50 homes in the Columbus water distribution system are tested every three years for lead. Various suburban partners who contract with Columbus for water do their own independent lead testing.

In addition to the corrosion prevention program, when city-owned lead water service lines are encountered, those lines are replaced. (Service lines are the smaller water lines coming off the city's larger main water lines. From the main to the shut off valve near the curb or sidewalk, the service line is city responsibility, and from the valve to the home is homeowner responsibility, along with the plumbing inside the home.)

The Division of Water helps fund a partnership program with Columbus Public Health, which includes lead poisoning prevention. For more information, visit: Columbus Public Health Healthy-Homes Program.

Where can I review the results of Columbus' required lead in water testing?

The results are published in the annual Consumer Confidence Water Quality Report, which is mailed to customers each summer and is posted at: Consumer Confidence Report. The results range from mostly below detection, less than 1 parts per billion (ppb), to 2.7 ppb, which is far below the EPA action level of 15 ppb.

I live in an older home with older plumbing. How can I know if there may be lead at my tap?

The only way for a customer to know with certainty if there may be lead at the tap is to have the water tested by a certified laboratory. State approved labs are published in our Reducing Exposure to Lead in Water(PDF, 718KB) publication, available at Columbus Public Utilities (and is mailed to customers every fall billing cycle).

A list of laboratories certified in the State of Ohio to test for lead may be found at Ohio EPA Certified Lab List or by calling (614) 644-2752. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1(800) 426-4791 or at EPA: Basic Information About Lead in Drinking Water.

All customers can protect themselves from lead or other contaminants by following this recommendation, regardless of the age of a home: whenever water in a building has not been used for 6 hours or more, run the tap for 30 seconds to two minutes, until the water is cold. This ensures one is pulling fresh water from the city's mains, not what has been sitting in a building's pipes. View our Lead Education Brochure(PDF, 718KB) for more information.

For Questions on Columbus' Water Quality

Please call the Water Quality Assurance Lab at 614-645-7691 (weekdays 8 am - 4 pm), or email: WaterQuality@columbus.gov. For more information on lead at the tap, visit: DrinkTap.org or view our Lead Education brochure(PDF, 718KB).