Lead Information

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 Through a joint water testing effort with homeowners, the Water Utility has learned that there are elevated lead levels in the water at a few homes.  Lead was not detected in the County’s raw water supplies (the Savannah River and Clarks Hill Lake) or in the treated water leaving the Running Faucetplants.  Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in household or building plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe and brass and chrome plated brass faucets. Connecting ground wires to the plumbing in a house will increase the likelihood of lead leaching into the water. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%. Older construction may still have plumbing that has the potential to contribute lead to drinking water.

This page is designed to provide information for homeowners that may be concerned about lead leaching into their water through pipes and plumbing fixtures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lead?
Is there lead in Columbia County's water sources?

Is there lead in Columbia County's treated water?
What age houses are most at risk?
How can I get lead out of my drinking water/reduce my exposure?
What if I want to have my water tested/can you test my water?
How much will the testing cost?

What do the laboratory results mean?
What is Columbia County doing to prevent lead in the water?

Should I be concerned about lead if I use a well/private water source for drinking water?
Is there lead in bottled water?
How do I know if someone in my family has high blood lead levels?
What are the health effects of high blood lead levels?
Where can I get more information?

What is lead?

Lead is a metal found naturally in the environment. It has also been widely used over the years in gasoline, house paint and plumbing fixtures. The amount of lead that is released into the environment each year has been greatly reduced by less use of leaded gas, starting in the mid-1970's. Laws forbidding the use of lead in house paint (1978) and lead in plumbing solder (1988) have helped as well. Still, lead can be a problem, especially in older homes (i.e. homes built before 1988).

Is there lead in Columbia County's water sources?

No lead has been detected in samples from the Savannah River or Clarks Hill Lake.

Is there lead in Columbia County's treated water?

Lead was not detected in the County’s raw water supplies (the Savannah River and Clarks Hill Lake) or in the treated water leaving the plants.  Through a joint water testing effort with homeowners, however, the Water Utility has learned that there are elevated lead levels in the water at a few homes built prior to 1988.

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What age houses are most at risk?

Lead-contaminated drinking water is most often a problem in houses that were built prior to 1988.  The use of lead solder with copper pipes in homes built before 1988 was widespread. Experts regard this lead solder as the major cause of lead contamination of household water in U.S. homes today.

How can I get lead out of my drinking water/reduce my exposure?

  1. Flush the line. Anytime the water in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, "flush" your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. (This could take as little as five to thirty seconds if there has been recent heavy water use such as showering or toilet flushing. Otherwise, it could take two minutes or longer.) Flushing typically uses one to two gallons of water and costs less than 25 cents per month.
  2. Make sure there are no ground wires connected to the plumbing. If there are, have a certified electrician adjust the wiring. DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF!
  3. Use only cold water for cooking and drinking.
  4. Identify and replace lead solder.

What if I want to have my water tested/can you test my water?

Columbia County does not have the necessary equipment to analyze drinking water samples for lead. Several private laboratories are approved to analyze drinking water samples for lead. They are:

• CSRA ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES, INC. AUGUSTA, GA 706-733-0848
• UNIVERSITY OF GA SOIL & WATER & PLANT LAB, ATHENS, GA 706-868-3413
• SPECTRUM LABS SAVANNAH, GA 912-238-5050
• ANALYTICAL SERVICES, INC. NORCROSS, GA 770-734-4200

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How much will the testing cost?

$25 - $150, depending on the lab. The CSRA abd UGA labs are the least expensive.

What do the laboratory results mean?

Lead was not detected in the County’s raw water supplies (the Savannah River and Clarks Hill Lake) or in the treated water leaving the plants.  Through a joint water testing effort with homeowners, however, the Water Utility has learned that there are elevated lead levels in the water at a few homes built prior to 1988.

What is Columbia County doing to prevent lead in the water?

Lead has not been detected in the water leaving the plants, but it has been detected at taps in a few houses in the County. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in household or building plumbing. To help prevent the lead leaching out of the plumbing and fixtures, Columbia County has a corrosion control program that has been in place since 1993. Corrosion control consists of adding a minute amount of a corrosion inhibitor to the finished water. This inhibitor forms a protective coating on the insides of the water mains. The October 2010 samples were the first in the County’s history with lead levels that exceeded the action level. Due to the current results, we have worked with our corrosion control specialists to upgrade the strength of the inhibitor being used. We are taking samples on a regular basis and testing them for lead to make sure the inhibitor is working.

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Should I be concerned about lead if I use a well/private water source for drinking water?

Even with a private drinking water supply (e.g., well, spring, cistern), there may still be a concern about lead in your water. If you live in a structure that was built before 1988, then the plumbing may contain lead pipes, lead solder, or lead materials. The lead in these pipes can dissolve into your drinking water.

Is there lead in bottled water?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a maximum contaminant level of five micrograms per liter for lead in bottled drinking water. Bottled water suppliers must routinely test their water supply for lead.

How do I know if someone in my family has high lead levels in their blood?

Lead in drinking water is only one possible source of lead in the body. It is important to identify an elevated level of lead in a child as early as possible to reduce or remove the source of exposure before any long-term health problems occur. Pregnant women should also discuss with their physicians the need for blood lead testing. If you have any questions about testing for lead in drinking water or if you want advice on how to lower the lead levels in your drinking water, contact the Columbia County Health Department at 706-868-3330. The Georgia Department of Community Health can also provide information about lead.  They may be reached at 404-657-2700.

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What are the health effects related to high blood lead levels?

Lead can enter people's bodies in the food they eat, the air they breathe and the water they drink. A person is exposed to a substance when it enters their body. Lead can be harmful to health and cause problems when it builds up in the body. Too much lead in the human body can cause serious damage to the brain, nervous system and red blood cells. Pregnant women and young children are at the greatest risk even when their exposure is to low levels of lead for short periods of time. Young children between the ages of six months and six years are more likely to suffer health problems from lead exposure. Too much exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can slow a child's physical growth and mental development and can cause behavior problems, mental retardation, kidney and liver damage, blindness and even death.

Where can I get more information about lead in water? 

You can visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website
or the Centers for Disease Control website
or the County Extension Service Website
or email our Lead Specialists at waterquality@columbiacountyga.gov.

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