Lead in drinking water
Is there lead in BJWSA drinking water? Lead in drinking water generally comes from the pipes or plumbing rather than the drinking water source. Water that is the slightest bit corrosive can leach lead out of pipes or plumbing into drinking water. In the 1800s and early 1900s, lead was commonly used to make pipes, especially the service line from the water main to the house. Lead was also widely used in paint and gasoline. Lead piping was banned in 1986. In 1991, EPA began regulating lead levels in drinking water. Most of BJWSA’s system is relatively new and built of ductile iron or plastic pipe. When we find a lead fitting in the older parts of our system, we immediately replace it.
BJWSA has treatment processes to prevent lead or copper in pipes from reaching drinking water. At our treatment plants, we feed a corrosion control product. This product forms a coating on the interior of the pipe to prevent the leaching of lead into drinking water from the pipe or plumbing. We use a product best suited to our water. BJWSA feeds this corrosion control product continuously and measures the quantity daily to ensure its proper use. The absence of a corrosion control chemical caused some of the problems in Flint, Michigan, that you likely heard about. BJWSA also controls and monitors pH, the acidity of water, to further ensure the water is non-corrosive.
BJWSA is in compliance with all state and federal regulations including the Lead and Copper Rule. Our water is adequately disinfected. A disinfectant residual is maintained throughout the distribution system to ensure water stays safe all the way to your house. SCDHEC inspects BJWSA annually. SCDHEC also reviews our water quality data monthly. BJWSA interacts with SCDHEC regularly on a variety of topics. The regulators in Columbia are diligent and paying close attention to what BJWSA does. SCDHEC’s priority is always public health.
Lead is a dangerous substance, particularly for children. What happened in Flint and other places where customers were exposed to high levels of lead and other water quality problems, was tragic and terrible. These failures broke trust and compromised people’s health. BJWSA’s mission is to inspire trust and enhance public health. We do not skimp or take shortcuts when it comes to safety or public health. BJWSA’s operators work 24/7 to ensure the safety of drinking water. We take customer questions and complaints seriously and respond quickly. Most BJWSA employees are also BJWSA customers. We drink the water we make, and so do our families. We will not let what happened in Flint happen here.
Schools and daycares
The Lead and Copper Rule Revision requires that all elementary and middle schools built before 2014 and all licensed daycares be tested for lead. In South Carolina, the SCDHEC is performing the school and daycare testing. BJWSA is assisting SCDHEC with some of the sample collection.
Learn more about SCDHEC’s Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care Programs
Flushing Mondays fact sheet for schools and childcare facilities
A service line is the smaller pipe from the water main to a house or business. The water meter is on the service line. BJWSA owns the pipe from the water main to the water meter. The section of service line past the meter to the building belongs to the homeowner or property owner.
The most common service line materials in BJWSA’s system are HDPE (high density polyethylene, a kind of plastic) and galvanized iron. We also see some PVC, another kind of plastic. On the military bases, copper pipe is commonly used for service lines. Sometimes PEX, a kind of plastic, is used for the owner side of the service.
If you are working in your yard, or doing some landscaping, you may see your service line. Call 811 before you dig so you don’t hit your service line!
How do I identify my service line material?
- First, how old is your house?
- In our area, HDPE became widely used in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before HDPE, services were usually built from galvanized iron pipe. Older homes, before 1970, commonly have galvanized iron service lines.
- Second, metal or plastic?
- If your pipe is plastic, it definitely is not lead. Plastic pipe can be white, blue, or black. Green plastic pipe is usually a sewer service line.
- What kind of metal?
- The metals used for drinking water services are galvanized iron, copper, and lead. Cast iron is another metal usually used for sewer service lines.
- Copper is recognizable by its distinctive color. Lead and galvanized iron are harder to tell apart because both are grey. Lead is a softer metal and more bendable than galvanized iron. The easiest way to tell lead pipe from galvanized iron is with a magnet. Galvanized iron pipe is magnetic. A magnet will not stick to a lead pipe.
Examples of Galvanized – Copper – Lead pipes:
Galvanized Copper Lead
Galvanized is magnetic; lead is not magnetic. (Click on image for example.)
Service Line Inventory (Coming 2023!)