The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Hamilton Water Department are concerned about lead and copper in your drinking water. Although most homes have very low levels of lead and copper in their drinking water, some homes in the community have levels above USEPA action levels. The USEPA action level for lead is 15 parts per billion (ppb), or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water (mg/L), and the USEPA action level for copper is 1.3 parts per million (ppm), or 1.3 milligrams of copper per liter of water.

Under Federal law the Water Dept. was required to have a program in place to minimize lead and copper in your drinking water by January 1997. This program includes corrosion control treatment, source treatment and public education. The Water Dept. is also required to replace each lead service line we control if the line contributes to lead concentrations of 15 ppb or more after the comprehensive treatment program has been completed.

If you have any questions about how we are carrying out the requirements of the lead and copper regulation, please give us a call at 978-468-5581. This brochure explains the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family by reducing your exposure to lead and copper in the drinking water.

Health Effects of Lead

Lead is a common, natural and often useful metal found throughout the environment in lead based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain and pewter, and water. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won’t hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies. A child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination – like dirt and dust – that rarely effects an adult. It is important to wash children’s hands and toys often and try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.

Health Effects of Copper

Copper, a reddish-brown metal, is often used as a material in the plumbing of residential and commercial buildings. Copper is an essential nutrient, but at high doses, it has been shown to cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver and kidney damage, and anemia. Person’s with Wilson’s Disease may be at higher risk than the general public of adverse health effects due to copper.

Lead and Copper in Drinking Water

Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person’s total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. The EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants, in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes.

Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away of materials containing lead and copper in the water distribution system and house-hold plumbing. These materials include lead based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, copper pipes and, in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect your house to the water main (service lines). In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2 percent lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0 percent.

When water stands in lead or copper pipes or plumbing systems containing lead and copper for several hours or more, the lead and copper may dissolve into your drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon after returning from work or school, can contain fairly high levels of lead or copper.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Exposure

For more information you can consult a variety of sources. Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about health effects of lead and copper. State and local government agencies that can be contacted include:

Hamilton Water Department can provide you with information about your community’s water supply and a list of local laboratories that have been certified by EPA for testing water quality.

The Massachusetts State Department of Public Health at 1-800-532-9571