Services » Environment & Recreation

LEAD  IN  WATER

Lead is commonly found in the environment. It comes from a variety of sources and may be present in air, food, soil or water. Excessive exposure to lead can be harmful, with pregnant women and children under the age of 6 being more susceptible to its effects.

What standards apply for lead levels in drinking water?

In December 2003 the limit for lead in drinking water was reduced from 50 micrograms per litre to 25 micrograms per litre.  This will be reduced further to 10 micrograms per litres in 2013.  The EPA recently confirmed that over 99% of samples taken across the country are compliant with this standard. Exceedances of the lead standard tend to be due to either the presence of lead in the distribution network of the local authority or the presence of lead in the internal plumbing of a domestic plumbing system or both.

 

What is the position in Cork City ?

The water supplied by Cork City Council emanates from the Lee Rd Water Treatment Plant and the Inniscarra Water Treatment Plant. Water is tested at these facilities on an ongoing basis against a range of chemical, microbiological and indicator parameters and both facilities produce water of very high quality.

Lead is one of the 26 separate chemical parameters against which water is tested.

The water produced for the City at the above treatment plants does not contain elevated lead levels.

The mains distribution system in Cork City is predominately cast iron with a limited amount of uPVC and AC. Accordingly the potential for difficulties to arise in relation to lead is generally limited to service connections and internal plumbing. Throughout the country lead pipes/fittings were commonly used for these purposes prior to the early 1970’s. The Council monitors water supplies by means of checks or tests on the distribution system and at the tap. The results recorded in recent years indicate that the quality of water supplied is also of a very high standard by reference to the established chemical, biological and indicator parameters.*

(*ref results of water tests for Cork City as per the EPA Annual Report on the Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland).

In the event of any exceedance being found the matter will be fully investigated in consultation with the householder, the HSE and the EPA and appropriate action taken and/or advices given so as to remedy any problems arising.

 

How Do I Know If There Are Lead Pipes In My Home?

If your home has been built or modernised since the early 1970’s, or the pipework replaced from the stop valve outside your home to the kitchen tap, there should be no lead pipe on your property.

If you are unsure, you can make a simple check:

Inside your home - Look in or behind the cupboards in your kitchen. You may also need to look in other places, e.g. the cupboard under the stairs. Find the pipe leading to the kitchen tap. Check if it is lead along as much of its length as possible. Unpainted lead pipes are dull grey and soft. If you scrape the surface gently with a knife, you will see the shiny, silver-coloured metal beneath.

Outside your home - Open the flap of the stop valve outside your property. Examine the pipe leading from the stop valve to the property, and follow the procedure as outlined above.

 

Who Is Responsible For The Pipework?

The part of the service pipe leading from the stop valve outside your property to the kitchen tap point is your responsibility or your landlord’s. The part of the service pipe which links the water main in the street to the stop valve outside your property is the responsibility of the local authority.  

 

What can I do to reduce lead levels?

If you have concerns regarding possible lead levels in your drinking water, take the following short-term precautions:

  • If you have any lead pipework between the stop valve outside your home and your kitchen tap, the best solution is to replace it with copper or plastic pipework.

  • Do not drink water that has been standing in the pipes for long periods, for example, overnight. In these circumstances, draw off a basin-full of water from the kitchen tap to clear the water which has been standing in the pipes.
    This need not be wasted but can be used on the garden or for something other than drinking or cooking. If the length of lead pipes exceeds 40 metres, additional water may need to be drawn off. You can then use the water from the kitchen tap as usual.

  • Whether or not there is lead plumbing in your home, for drinking and cooking, always use the water from the cold water tap in the kitchen and avoid drinking water from bathroom taps.

 

Testing your water supply

The Council carries out an ongoing programme of testing on public water supplies. Where a consumer is concerned and wishes to have a water supply tested independently the Council will be happy to provide contact details of accredited laboratories.

 

Contact details for relevant organisations –

Environment Directorate,
Water Services,
Room 315,
City Hall,
Anglesea Street,
Cork.