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Could high levels of lead be in your drinking water?

You might not think about it often, but dangerous levels of lead could be in your drinking water.

According to Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the state has a comprehensive program in place, outlined by the federal environmental protection agency, to make sure there aren’t dangerous levels of lead in our water supply.

A kitchen faucet.
(Gary Shannon, ThinkStock)

He said each water system, whether it’s a municipal water authority or a water company, is required to test a certain percentage of tap water in their communities. If levels of lead in the water exceed what the state allows, actions must be taken and customers notified.

“Then they would notify the Department of Environmental Protection and they would also notify customers and they would take actions to correct any problems that might be detected,” Hajna said.

Even if your water utility gives the “all clear,” however, you still may have a problem.

“Lead was used in construction prior to 1987, primarily in soldering so it’s found in the pipes of homes,” he said. “So really it’s when it gets into the piping system in your home that has a chance of leaching out into your drinking water.”

Hajna said if you live in an older neighborhood, the NJ DEP recommends getting water tested.

“We recommend along with the Department of Health that consumers get their water tested,” he said. “You can get self-testing kits at most home improvement centers or you can go to the Department of Health website and find a list of contractors that do testing. It’s something, especially if you have younger children that you should do.”

If you find an elevated level of lead your water, besides changing the pipes, you can lower exposure levels by turning on the tap and running the water for a while before consuming it.

“Just run it for a minute or so just to let the lines flush out so any lead that is in the solder that settled overnight, it can flush out of the system,” Hajna said.

He also pointed out using cold water is recommended for filling up pots or mixing baby formula, because hot water tends to make lead leach out more readily.

According to Hajna, customers get a statement from their water utility every year listing all contaminants that are tested, comparing them to the health-safety levels that are set by the federal government.

“We would encourage all homeowners to look at the statement, don‘t just throw it away,” he said.

If you’re selling a home, testing for lead is sometimes required, and disclosing what you know is always a “must.”

According to Jarrod Grasso, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, if you get your water from a well on your property and you are selling your house, you must have the well water tested for lead, and the test must have been completed within the past year.

A seller may also require a buyer to conduct the test, but in either case, a well water test must be completed before the deal can be finalized, and the seller must always disclose the results of the test to a potential buyer.

In the case of someone selling a home that is hooked into a water utility or water company, if that utility or company has reported a problem with the water, that information must also be disclosed to a buyer on the property disclosure statement.

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