How to Test for Lead in Drinking Water

Lead is a toxic substance that can be found in contaminated drinking water.

It has no color, odor, or taste, but when ingested, lead can cause a variety of serious health consequences, particularly in young children and pregnant women.

Service lines that consist of old lead pipes are the most significant source of lead in water. According to the White House’s estimates in December 2021, between 6 to 10 million households in the United States get their drinking water from lead pipes.

Stephen Bell, an environmental inspector at Green Orchard Group, also investigated this problem back in 2020 and found that approximately 40% of pipes service buildings in New York City are made of lead.

If you’re a concerned resident living in NYC, here’s how you can test for lead in your drinking water.

Get a Free Lead Water Test Kit

New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection provides free lead water testing for residents. You can request a test kit online or through 311.

In around 5-7 days, you’ll receive a box in the mail containing:

  • Two empty collection bottles
  • Instructions for collecting a sample of your drinking water
  • Chain-of-Custody form (CoC)
  • Plastic ziploc bag
  • Brown tape
  • Pre-paid mailing label

It’s important to note that the free kit provided by the city is for residential use only. The test results cannot be used to met lead testing requirements for day care centers and other businesses.

For professional lead testing services in New York City, please contact Green Orchard Group using our contact form to speak to one of our EPA-certified lead experts.

How to Test for Lead in Water

Step 1: Do not use your water for 6-12 hours before starting sample collection.

Step 2: Choose your sample location (either the bathroom or kitchen sink). The same water source should be used to collect both samples that you’ll take. Fill in Fields 1 to 4 of the Chain-of-Custody Form, noting down the location, date, time, and how long the water was not used before sampling.

Step 3: Collect Sample #1. Fill the yellow bottle with cold, unfiltered water from the faucet until it reaches the top of the bottle. Record the date and time that you took the sample on the yellow bottle label and in Field 3 of the CoC form.

Step 4: Let the water continue running for 1-2 minutes, then collect Sample #2. Fill the orange bottle with cold, unfiltered water until it reaches the top. Record the date and time you took the sample on the orange bottle label and in Field 3 of the CoC form.

Step 5: Complete the rest of the CoC form and double check that all of the information is correct.

Step 6: Place both bottles in the Ziploc bag along with the original copy of the CoC form. Seal the Ziploc bag, put it back in the box, and mail it to the laboratory using the pre-paid label.

Your lead water test results will be mailed back to you within 30 days.

The report will tell you how many micrograms of lead there is per liter of water. Compare your numbers to the federal action level of 15 micrograms of lead per liter to decide if further action is needed.

However, it’s important to understand that lead concentrations under the federal action level does NOT mean that it’s safe. According to the EPA, any amount of lead in water can be dangerous:

“EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.”

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Lead in Water

  • Flush tap water by letting the faucet run for at least a few minutes before drinking, especially when the faucet hasn’t been used for several hours.
  • Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Hot water dissolves lead more quickly than cold water.
  • Install and use a water filter certified to remove lead.
  • Clean your faucet’s screen, or aerator, regularly.
  • Consult with a lead professional to find and remove the source.

About Green Orchard Group

Green Orchard Group is a leading environmental health & safety firm based on New York City. We have an experienced team of professionals that provide EPA-certified lead assessment and abatement services. Call or contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about lead.