When lead is found in drinking water it is usually because water can dissolve the lead in pipes and plumbing. While Milwaukee treats its water and meets all federal guidelines for drinking water quality, when water sits in these pipes for an extended period of time, lead may get into drinking water. The amount of lead in drinking water can vary based on the plumbing in a building, how much water is used, and how often it is used.
In Milwaukee, structures built before 1951 are more likely to have a lead service line bringing water to your home. Water mains are not made of lead. To find out if your home has a lead service line, you can look up your address here.
Inside your home, plumbing pipes and materials may also be made of lead. Lead may also have been used in solder (which joins pipes together) or in old brass fixtures. Lead pipes are dull gray in color and are soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key. A magnet will not stick to a lead pipe. A plumber can help you determine if the plumbing inside your home is made of lead.
What can you do?
Use a filter certified to remove lead: If you live in a home with a lead service line or plumbing and have an infant, children under 6 years old, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or women who may become pregnant in the home, use a filter certified to remove lead. Be sure to look for filters certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53, and always follow the manufacturer's directions for use. Using a filter or bottled water from a lead-free source is especially important when preparing baby formula.
Run your water: If your water has not been used for several hours, run the cold water tap for at least three minutes – until it is noticeably colder – before using tap water for cooking and drinking. This flushes out water that has been sitting in your pipes and brings in fresh water directly from the water main, which is not made of lead. Not running your water for the recommended length of time may increase your risk of lead exposure.
Use water from the cold water tap: Drink and cook only with water from the cold water tap. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly.
Clean your aerators: Regularly remove the screen and aerator from your faucets, rinse out any particles, and re-attach. The particles may contain lead. Do this once a month, or more frequently if there is water utility construction work nearby.
Replace your lead service line: When a service line is replaced, City of Milwaukee Ordinance requires that the entire line from the meter in the home to the water main be replaced with copper. If you choose to replace your portion of the lead service line, the City will replace its portion. If your lead service line leaks, fails, or is damaged, you may be eligible for the City's Lead Service Line Replacement Program. Call Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service at (414) 286-2830 for more information.