water supply

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), ingesting even the small amounts of lead in drinking water can have profound effects on children, including behavioral and learning issues, stunted growth, hearing problems and various other disorders.

Lead can enter your drinking water through multiple entry points in your plumbing system if your home was built or any plumbing components installed before 1986, the year that the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed. This act banned the use of lead in any form in plumbing systems.

Here are a few of the ways that lead may be contaminating your drinking water and how to have the issues corrected by a plumbing professional.

Lead in Service Pipes

Service pipes are the pipes that connect to the main lines of your local municipal water system to bring all of the water into your home. Some older service pipes were constructed entirely of lead because of its strength, durability, malleability and resistance to corrosion. Other service pipes may simply be infused with lead that can leach into your water supply as the steel component of a pipe succumbs to corrosion.

Replacing a service pipe is difficult because it runs entirely underground. This could mean digging up driveways, sidewalks and other surface structures in order to access and replace the line with a lead-free alternative. Excavation costs alone would be expensive, along with the costs and inconvenience of replacing everything at ground level that is displaced.

Horizontal Boring and Service Pipe Replacement

Horizontal boring involves drilling a path for a new service line beneath ground level to avoid trenching and save existing structures on the surface. Horizontal boring machines can drill a path between any two chosen points and even have the ability to change direction during drilling to avoid underground obstacles.

A pilot hole is first drilled to establish a precise path for the new service line. Then a reamer is sent along the path to widen it sufficiently enough to receive the new pipe. The new service line, which is usually made of CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipe, is dragged along behind the reamer until it reaches the opposite point in the installation path.

CPVC pipe is optimal for underground use because of its inability to rust or corrode, as well as its resistance to invasion by water-hungry tree roots. The only digging required for horizontal boring is a small entry pit for the boring machine and another pit at the exit point.

Lead in Brass and Chrome Supply Valves on Galvanized Supply Lines

While the supply pipes in an older home may be constructed of galvanized steel, the shutoff valves are likely to be contaminated with lead, which will leach into your supply lines and your drinking water. The valves can be replaced without replacing the galvanized supply pipes because any remaining lead in the system will be flushed away after the valves are replaced.

Lead in Copper Supply Pipes

Copper is a preferred choice for supply lines because of its durability and resistance to corrosion. However, copper supply lines that were installed before 1986 and the SWDA  are likely to be connected with lead-based solder, which will leach into the water supply and contaminate drinking water.

The only solution to this problem is to replace the existing supply lines using lead-free solder. This can be an expensive proposition, both because of the labor involved and the price of copper, which varies according to global demand. However, while you have no choice whether to replace the copper supply lines, you can choose to convert to CPVC, which is cheaper and requires less labor to install. 

If you're in the Indianapolis area and need to "get the lead out," you can trust Bedell Plumbing Inc.to do the job right and at a fair price.