Learn About Lead

What is lead, and where is it?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful to our health.  It can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water.

The most common source of household exposure is from the chips and dust of lead-based paint, which was commonly used in homes until it was banned in 1978.

Aquarion water systems have long met and continue to comply with Federal and State quality standards, including those for lead content. Each year, we report to customers the levels of lead and many other potentially hazardous substances that may be found in water systems.

To provide you with even more information, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about lead content in drinking water. We hope it helps you determine and reduce the risks of lead in your drinking water.


Lead compliance test reports for the state of Connecticut.

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Lead compliance test reports for the state of Massachusetts.

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Lead compliance test reports for the state of New Hampshire.

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Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. It can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water. The most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint routinely used in homes and buildings built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned. The best way to ensure you are not as risk is to have your home tested for lead paint.

Although water is not the main source of exposure, lead can be found in some water service lines and some household plumbing. The EPA estimates that 10 to 20% of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60% of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

Lead is a toxic metal that can negatively affect the health of you and your family. Here are a few reasons why you should take care to reduce your exposure to lead:

  • If ingested, lead can sit in your body's organs for months.
  • Your body cannot tell the difference between lead and calcium, so if lead is not excreted, your body stores both substances in your bones. Lead can remain in your body throughout your lifetime.
  • Lead is especially harmful to infants and children under age six.  It can damage young, developing nervous systems, which can reduce a child's IQ, slow development and growth, cause learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and other unhealthy physical effects.
  • Pregnant women must be careful to not ingest lead since it will harm a developing fetus.
  • In adults, lead can cause muscular, mental and mood disorders, among other harmful conditions.
  • Lead toxicity can be treated, but its detrimental effects cannot be cured, and the damage cannot be reversed.

Remember: There is no “safe” level of lead!

Children at risk of exposure to lead should be tested. Your doctor or local health center can perform a simple blood test to determine your child’s blood lead level.

Lead may be found in the following places in or outside of your home:

  • Lead-based paint that was applied before lead paint was banned in 1978.
  • Air from industrial emissions.
  • Soil contaminated by dust from past vehicle emissions and/or exterior lead paint.
  • Some imported foods, medicines, dishes, toys, and plastics.
  • Water from corroded plumbing fixtures and products that contain lead.
There are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water, but if you have lead service lines, the best step you can take is to have them replaced by a licensed plumber.  Learn more about ways to Minimize Your Exposure to Lead.

Lead is a very malleable metal. This made it a perfect material for plumbing until its toxic effects were discovered.

Despite the quality of our water sources and the overall effectiveness of our treatment process, households with service lines or plumbing systems that contain lead might still have lead in their drinking water.

The chances of this occurring are highest in homes built before 1930, as they are more likely to have lead plumbing systems. Lead service lines, which can often be seen at their entry point through a home’s foundation, are dull grey and scratch easily to reveal a shiny surface. If you have a lead service line, we recommend that you have a licensed plumber replace it. Lead services lines on a customer’s property are the responsibility of the property owner, and are owned, installed, and maintained at the owner’s expense. (See Who Owns What). Aquarion will send out notices if we discover that your home has a lead service line and strongly advise you to have a licensed plumber replace it.

Houses built before 1986 are more likely to have lead-soldered plumbing joints. Lead solder used to join copper pipes is silver or grey. You can find kits at hardware and home supply stores that you can use to test the surface of soldered joints for the presence of lead. If you have lead-soldered joints, the chance of the lead leaching into your drinking water is greater when water has been standing in the pipes for many hours, such as overnight.

To check if your drinking water has lead and at what level, you can have the water tested by a laboratory. It’s the only sure way of determining the lead level, since lead dissolved in water cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. You can download a list of certified testing laboratories through the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s website. Be sure to contact laboratories directly for information on costs and the requirements for sampling bottles.

Lead is rarely--if ever—found naturally in Aquarion’s water sources or in the treated water flowing through our distribution system. More commonly, lead may leach into water over time through corrosion, or the dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and some plumbing systems. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass), and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on the types and amounts of minerals in the water, how long the water stays in the pipes, how corrosive the water is, and the water’s temperature.

Below you will find some structures that may or may not contribute to the presence of lead in your water:

Lead Service Lines

Despite the quality of our water sources and the effectiveness of our treatment process, lead can get into a home’s drinking water through lead service lines – with a few exceptions, most were installed in homes build before 1930 – or through home plumbing systems that contain lead. In 1986, lead pipes were banned in the United States and plumbing materials were required to meet federal “lead-free” specifications, so people in older homes are at higher risk. If you are concerned about your home’s plumbing or service line, a certified plumber can inspect your service line, pipes, solder and fittings for lead.

Lead service lines often can be seen where they enter the home's foundation.  They are dull grey and scratch easily to reveal a shiny surface.

Homeowners are responsible for the service lines on their property - only the homeowner can replace their part of the service line.  So, if your plumber finds a lead service line, please take steps to replace it, and be sure to let us know so we can update our records.

Galvanized Pipe

Some older homes are equipped with service lines and/or plumbing systems made of galvanized iron piping:

  • Galvanized iron pipes are made of steel and coated with zinc as a layer of protection for the pipe.
  • Over time, the zinc can erode, causing the interior of the pipe to corrode and create lots of nooks and crannies that can collect lead released from a lead service line.

If your home has galvanized iron piping and was fed by a lead service line at any time (including currently), then you are at risk of lead being released into your water. We encourage you to have your water tested and your galvanized line replaced.

We recommend you use an NSF-certified water filter for all drinking and cooking until your water test results confirm your water is safe.

Aquarion regularly tests the water at a selected number of high-risk homes. If results exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10% of “first-draw samples”* taken from household taps, we send notices to our customers in the affected systems and provide instructions on what to do to limit lead exposure as required by the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

While it is a good screening technique, every home is different, and lead levels can vary from home to home depending on differences, like pipes, solder, and fixtures used. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the best way of determining the lead level in your home. You can have your drinking water tested for lead with the aid of certified testing laboratories. Be sure to contact labs directly for information on costs and the requirements for sampling bottles.

For a list of testing laboratories select your state:


New Hampshire

*A “first-draw sample” is one taken from tap water that has stood motionless in the plumbing pipes for at least six hours.

Yes and yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead standard requires treatment modi-fications if lead test results exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10% of “first-draw samples” taken from household taps. We conduct tests in our distribution system in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory requirements. To learn more about water quality in your area, read our Water Quality Reports.
Testing has shown that there is no lead in the water exiting our water treatment facilities. In addition, we treat our water to reduce the chances of lead entering the supply from pipes and plumbing between our facilities and your taps.

Lead Service Connections

Aquarion is currently conducting a study of its hundreds of thousands of service connections to determine which are made of lead. As this information becomes available, we will post it here. Meanwhile, if you have any questions not answered by the links above, please contact our Water Quality Management Department.

Minimize Your Exposure to Lead

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