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The water leaving the City of Durham’s water treatment plants is lead free. We test the water each day to confirm it is high quality. Lead can enter drinking water by leaching from lead pipes that connect some older homes (pre-1988) to the water system, a process called corrosion.
Lead in drinking water can also come from household plumbing such as brass or chrome-plated brass faucets that contain lead. If you think you may have lead in your water, you can request a free lead test kit by:
Too much lead in your body can cause serious health risks. The greatest risk is to young kids (especially under the age of six) and pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. Ingesting lead can slow a child’s mental and physical development, creating new learning and behavior problems. In adults, lead can cause health problems, such as increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney, or nervous system problems. The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies focus on reducing lead exposure due to these risks.
You can take the following steps to learn about lead in your water or pipes:
If you think you have lead pipes, you can take these steps to protect yourself and your family:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991. Under this rule, Durham tests more than 65 homes built between 1983 and 1985 every three years. We most recently tested between June and September of 2022. Those results showed lead levels at the homes were far less than the detection level, with only one at the detection level but well below the EPA action level. You can review historical testing results in the annual Water Quality Reports posted on the City’s Website: https://www.durhamnc.gov/946/Annual-Reports
The Lead and Copper Rule also required the City to begin a corrosion control program, which we did in the early 1990s. Water is corrosive by nature, so by adding zinc orthophosphate and managing the pH level of the water, we lower the potential of lead leaching from household pipes and plumbing. Corrosion was the major cause of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. Officials there decided not to add corrosion control chemicals to the city’s treated water when they changed water sources. As a result, the chemical composition of the new water source allowed lead to leach from pipes. The Flint crisis sparked revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule.
After several years of review and analysis, the EPA released its Lead and Copper Rule Revisions on October 16, 2021. Durham Water must comply with the rule by October 16, 2024. Key Lead and Copper Rule Revisions requirements are to:
Durham Water is proactively taking steps to comply with the revisions to protect the health of our customers. Our corrosion control program meets the requirements under the revisions. We do not currently know of any City-owned or customer-owned lead service lines.
Durham Water is currently working with our consultant on a materials inventory for the privately-owned part of service lines (water lines from the water meter to/into the house). We are reviewing:
We are also gathering information from state and local databases to write the sampling plan for schools and child care centers.
Once we complete the data review, Durham Water will confirm the pipe materials.
Durham Water will send all customers with “unknown” materials a flier with steps to learn the material of their line and a link to report it. After you take the steps and fill out an online survey with a photo of the line, Durham Water will review your photo. We will confirm your material or ask for more information.
Additionally, city staff or contractors will also do field visits to dig and learn the material make-up of the service line for select properties. We will not dig unless the property owner signs a right-of-entry form to let us in the yard. You will not need to be at home when the dig occurs. We will tell you the material of your service line the day of the dig via a door hanger. The door hanger will include steps you can take to protect your health. Durham Water will fill the hole back in on the day of the dig.
We are using machine learning to focus contractor digging, so that we can learn the very most about our system. If we do not reach out with a right-of-entry form, please contact [email protected] to see if you qualify for a City-conducted field verification.
If you fill out the material survey form, Durham Water will review your photo and confirm your material. If Durham Water or a contractor digs a test hole, they will tell you the material the same day via a door hanger that will include steps you can take to protect your health.
If you do not get a survey, it is likely because Durham Water knows the material of your service line. We will put an inventory map on our website by October 2023. Then, you can look up your address and learn the material of your service line. We will update the map as we learn more.
If your line is lead, galvanized requiring replacement (which may have lead) or unknown, your property will be considered in our lead service line replacement plan. Until then, you can take these steps to protect yourself and your family from lead in your tap water:
Replacing private lines is the property owner’s responsibility. Durham Water is exploring if we can use state and federal funding to replace private lines to decrease the property owner costs. Homeowner and utility/service line insurance plans do not typically cover the replacement cost.
The inventory includes irrigation and fire lines. So, we will tell an owner if their line is lead, and may ask for help learning the line material if we do not know it. In-ground irrigation systems have backflow prevention devices, so even if there is lead in the piping or fixture, it will not end up in the drinking water line.
The City adds a corrosion inhibitor into the drinking water at its two treatment plants. This corrosion control program has been in place since the 1970s, and has effectively minimized the corrosion of lead and copper household pipes.
If your home does not meet the above criteria, your chance of lead exposure from drinking water is extremely low. However, there are several tips you can follow to further reduce or even eliminate the chance.
The Durham County Department of Public Health manages the Lead Education and Assessment Program (LEAP), which offers services to increase lead education and awareness. LEAP's website has helpful information about ways you can protect your family from possible lead exposure. Visit their website, email their staff, or call 919-560-4842 for further information and assistance.
If you are a City of Durham water customer, your home was built before 1986, and you are concerned there may be lead in your home's plumbing, you can request to have your water tested for lead.
To request a free sample kit, contact Durham One Call at 919-560-1200.
After completing the necessary request form, you may then pick up your sample kit (available three business days after completing the form) at one of two locations: our Compliance Services Building at 6605 Farrington Road, or our Mist Lake Facility at 1600 Mist Lake Drive. Kits will be available for pick-up Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Customers should complete a request form and provide the required information so that appropriate labels and associated paperwork can be prepared and made ready. After collecting samples, customers should return them to either WRF as soon as possible for analysis.
For more information on lead in drinking water, visit
For more information on lead in drinking water, visit the EPA’s Ground Water and Drinking Water website.
The City of Durham Department of Water Management is happy to provide additional information about lead and drinking water. Please contact the department at 984-242-3012 Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.