1. Is my tap water safe? All WSFC Utilities customers receive water that is clean, high quality and safe to drink. For more than 20 years, WSFC Utilities has met or surpassed all federal water quality standards, as documented in our annual Water Quality Reports. This includes testing for lead to ensure our water is safe to drink. We are happy to report that our water distribution system remains in full compliance with the EPA’s current regulations.
Public health, economic development and quality of life in our county are contingent on reliable and safe water. Approximately 320,000 tests and measurements are conducted throughout our system each year to ensure high quality tap water. Our water is tested for more than 100 substances and is monitored throughout the year to ensure that it meets the rigorous standards set forth by the EPA and the Public Water Supply Section of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
2. How does lead get into drinking water? Water is lead-free when it leaves our treatment plants and moves through the water mains of our distribution system. We know that pipes that are part of our distribution system are not sources of lead in water; however, there may be lead in service lines on private property that connect individual homes and businesses to the WSFC Utilities water mains. Other sources of lead include galvanized iron pipes downstream of lead piping components, lead solder and brass faucets or fixtures.
Lead was commonly used for water service lines until the 1950s. It was also used in household plumbing fixtures (faucets, valves, sinks, shower heads, hose bibs, etc.) and solder into the late 1980s, when lead solder was banned. From 1986 to 2014, plumbing fixtures could contain up to 8% lead to be categorized as “lead-free", however, current standards for “lead-free” fixtures allow no more than 0.25% of lead content.
3. Why is lead a problem? Lead was used for many years in paint, plumbing and other products found in and around homes. The EPA has determined that lead can cause health problems if it accumulates in a person’s body over time. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Young children and infants are particularly vulnerable to lead. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child.
4. Can I get my water tested for lead? Yes, and it's FREE! If you are concerned about your water quality, please contact CityLink at 336-727-8000 or use any method at cityofws.org/citylink.
5. How can I minimize lead exposure? The simplest way to reduce lead is to flush your pipes before using any tap water for drinking or cooking. Run the cold water until the temperature stops changing then allow it to run for an additional two minutes before using or consuming. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, making infant formula, beverages and ice.
Filter pitchers can also be used. When selecting a pitcher filter, be sure to select one that has a National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification that certifies removal of lead.
6. What is a water service line and who owns it? Service lines carry water to your home or business from WSFC Utilities water mains. The service connection in its entirety, from the meter to the building, is considered private since its sole purpose is to convey potable water to a single dwelling, business or building. Often, the portion of the pipe within the right-of-way or easement is maintained by WSFC Utilities. See the diagram for an example of a standard water service line.
7. How do I know if I have a lead service line at my location? We have created an online Water Service Line Inventory with easy-to-follow instructions to identify your private service line material. You can report your findings and follow the steps provided if you discover lead or potential lead.
You can visually inspect the water service line pipe entering your home. Lead service lines are generally a dull gray color, very soft and can easily be scratched with a house key or coin. When scratched, a lead pipe will turn a bright silver color. Do not use a knife or sharp instrument to scratch the pipe and be careful not to puncture a hole in the pipe.
Galvanized steel pipe may also be lead lined or have a zinc coating with high lead content. Galvanized steel pipe is magnetic and a gray metal color. When tapped with a screwdriver, it makes a metallic sound.
Even if your service line is not lead, you might have a lead gooseneck (small portion of flexible piping) in the street if your pipe is galvanized steel. To purchase an EPA-approved lead test kit, visit https://www.epa.gov/lead/lead-test-kits.
8. If I have a lead service line, how can I reduce my exposure to lead? WSFC Utilities implemented a corrosion control program in 1992 designed to prevent lead leaching from pipes into the water. As described in FAQ #10, the process of replacing a lead service line can temporarily increase lead levels because pipes are disturbed.
If your private service line is identified as lead, please follow the recommendations below while we assess the final requirements of the EPA rule. We will continue to share information and you cancheck back later to learn more about lead service line replacement options.
• Always buy plumbing fixtures (faucets, valves, sinks, shower heads, hose bibs, etc.) that have zero-lead, lead-free or low-lead content. Read the labels of any new plumbing fixtures closely.
• Always use fresh, cold, running water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Run the cold water until the temperature no longer changes and then allow it to run for an additional two minutes before using or consuming.
• Boiling water does not remove lead and can increase lead concentration in water.
• Regularly remove and clean faucet screens and aerators.
• Obtain an NSF-certified filter device that is certified to remove lead.
• Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead and any copper piping with lead solder installed before 1986.
• Water service lines are sometimes used to ground electrical lines. The wiring in your home or building may be attached to your water service line or elsewhere in your plumbing. If you have a lead service line, this can accelerate its corrosion. Have a licensed electrician check to ensure your electrical wiring is not grounded to the plumbing in your home or business.
• Be careful of dust from lead-based paint. Even though lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978, many older homes have not removed it and it may currently pose a hazard. The most common source of lead exposure in homes is from the dust of lead-based paint.
• Be careful of other sources of lead in your home. Some household items such as pottery, makeup, toys and jewelry may contain lead. Wash your children’s hands and toys often.
9. If my lead service line is replaced, will all the lead in my drinking water be eliminated? Possibly not. If you live in a home that was built prior to 1986, it is possible that lead solder was used at the joints of your interior piping. If you suspect you have lead solder based on the age of your home and the water has not been used for more than six hours, run the cold water until it the temperature no longer changes and then allow it to run for an additional two minutes before using or consuming.
See FAQ #8 for additional ways to minimize lead exposure.
While our Lead Compliance Program is designed to identify lead service lines from WSFC Utilities water main to your shut-off valve, it does not cover any lead pipe material within your property. A licensed plumber can help evaluate whether or not you have lead material in your indoor plumbing, or you can purchase an EPA-approved lead swab kit.
10. What should I do after my lead service line is replaced? The disruption to your service to remove and replace your lead service line can temporarily affect your water quality, including increasing lead levels for a short time because the pipes have been disturbed. After an initial flush of the replaced service line is completed by the contractor, remove the faucet aerators from all cold water taps in the home and fully open the water taps throughout the home for 30 minutes, starting at the lowest level. Be sure to include bathtubs and showers. When the last cold water tap on the highest level has flushed for 30 minutes, turn off each tap starting from the lowest level of the home. Always use, cold, running water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Regularly change or clean out all faucet screens and aerators.
Contact CityLink at 336-727-8000 or use any method at cityofws.org/citylink to find out how to get your water tested for lead after replacement of your lead service line.
11. What are the symptoms of lead poisoning? A high dose of lead poisoning may result in severe abdominal pain and cramping, vomiting, muscle weakness, stumbling when walking, seizures, coma and brain disease. More information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.
12. Why are children at risk? Young children and infants are especially at risk for lead poisoning because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, exposure to lead in drinking may cause behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. Long-term lead exposure can lead to intellectual disability and loss of developmental skills. Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.
13. Why are pregnant women at risk? Lead can cross the placental barrier, exposing a woman's fetus to lead. If lead accumulates in a woman's body, over time, it is stored in the bones which can be released to the fetus during pregnancy.
14. Who do I contact if I have questions about my water? You may contact CityLink at 336-727-8000 or any method at cityofws.org/citylink.