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Wauwatosa homeowners with houses built before 1953 should consider investigating the lead content of their tap water. If the original lateral has never been replaced, there is a good chance that the drinking water contains lead.

In addition to checking a house's lateral, all of the piping that brings in drinking water should be inspected because other parts of a water system were often initially constructed with lead, according to information on the Wauwatosa city website. It is also possible that some of the property’s internal plumbing and fixtures contain lead. Even pipes made from copper may be contaminated because they may have lead solder joints.

"There are a number of things that a (homeowner) needs to consider when addressing this issue," Water Superintendent for the City of Wauwatosa James Wojcehowicz said. "It depends on which works best for their family."

Homeowner options

If a homeowner is concerned about lead in the water, flushing the tap can help limit possible exposure until an inspection and replacement can take place. Flushing is particularly important when the faucet has gone unused for more than a few hours because it takes time for lead to absorb into water.

Another option homeowners can employ is using the various types of water filters that have been certified by the National Science Foundation for reducing lead in drinking water. Types include pour-through pitcher/carafe, faucet-mounted filters and countertop connection to a hose or tubing.

The Wauwatosa Water Utility is responsible for maintaining the water service lateral from the water main up to and including the shut-off valve outside of the property, called the curb stop. The property owner owns the water service lateral after the curb stop to the property and all plumbing inside of the property except for the water meter. The city recommends contacting a licensed plumber who would be able to assist in determining your property’s plumbing conditions as well as the costs associated with a service lateral replacement.

Lead is a common, naturally-occurring metal found throughout the environment but it is not found in Lake Michigan surface water or in our source of supply water treated by Milwaukee Water Works. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion or wearing away of materials in the water distribution system and household plumbing that contain lead. Despite concerns about drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that “the greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips or dust.”

Other resources

Homeowners should call the Wauwatosa Water Utility business office at 414-479-8963 if they need to find out more information about their service line pipe material. In addition, those concerned that lead in their water has caused someone to get ill are urged to contact the City of Wauwatosa Health Department Referral Nurse Line at 414-479-8939.

Additional sources to contact regarding lead in tap water include the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791, the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-LEAD-FYI or the American Water Works Association online at  www.awwa.org.

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