Lead FAQ

Health Effects

Children: Delays in physical or mental development

Adults: Kidney problems, high blood pressure

Sources of Contamination

How Lead Gets in Your Water

Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits.

While water doesn’t contain lead when it’s released by the treatment plant, it could contain dangerous levels by the time it reaches your sink.

Where the Lead Comes From

Certain additives dissolve metals and other minerals from pipes; chemicals, such as chloramines used to disinfect water, change water’s chemistry, making it more corrosive.

Water Main

Carries water from the treatment plant. It is rare for the water main to leach lead into the water.

Service Line

Connects each building to the water supply. Until a few decades ago, the lines commonly were made of lead. Even those installed since then might have some lead content.

Water Meter

Measures water use. Older meters could have high lead content. Even today's "lead-free" meters legally can contain as much as 8%.


Used to join pipes. After copper pipes replaced lead pipes, solder became a major contributor of lead contamination. Today's "lead-free" solder can contain no more than 0.2%.

Household Plumbing

Carries water through a home. Older homes may have lead pipes. Newer plumbing also may have substantial lead content, including "lead-free" pipes, which can contain as much as 8%.


Brass fixtures (which include many chromed fixtures) are most likely to contain lead. Like other water pipes and fixtures, "lead-free" faucets can contain as much as 8%

Uses for Lead

Lead is sometimes used in household plumbing materials or in water service lines used to bring water from the main to the home. Lead was banned from plumbing materials used to provide water for human consumption in 1986. The Safe Drinking Water Act states that only “lead free” pipe, solder, or flux may be used in the installation or repair of plumbing materials.

Action Level for Treatment Technique = 0.015 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or 0.015 parts per million (ppm)

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal MCLG = 0 mg/L or 0 ppm

What Is Lead?

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around homes. The primary source of lead exposure for most children is lead-based paint in older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to that exposure.

Lead in Drinking Water: What You Need to Know

Lead enters drinking water through corrosion in lead pipes or plumbing materials. The source of lead in water could be old service lines that connect homes to the water main in the street.  These service lines are a joint responsibility.  The District owns the portion of the line from the water main to the curb, and homeowners are responsible for the portion from the curb to their home.

Additional sources of lead in water include:

  • Interior lead pipe
  • Interior galvanized pipe (especially if there was, or is a full or partial lead service line)
  • Interior copper pipe with lead soldered joints (installed prior to 1988)
  • Interior plumbing fixtures (purchased or installed prior to January 2014)
What if Your House is Identified With Lead and Copper Lines?

Even though you may have lead pipes, your water is safe to drink.  The Northwestern Water & Sewer District (The District) and your water treatment provider, the City of Toledo, are taking the proper steps to ensure your water is not contaminated.

If you have a home or rental property identified on The District Lead and Copper Map, you have been notified by The District via mail.

Prior to work on your property, The District and/or contractor will place a door hanger at your residence and use our auto calling system. Visit our page on CodeRED Emergency Alerts for more info or to sign up for alerts. Please make your contact information is updated if you have signed up.

During the project, a District inspector or project manager will be on-site, feel free to ask them questions throughout the project.

If you have any questions regarding lead service lines, please contact the Northwestern Water and Sewer District Engineering Department at (419) 354-9090, Option 4.