Why Switch From Lead to Copper Water Main?

Have questions about the risk of lead pipes or what to do if a lead pipe breaks? Harris Water Main and Sewer has the knowledge to answer all your questions. Learn more about why you should consider the switch from lead to copper water mains in NYC.

What Are the Concerns of Having a Water Line Made from Lead?

There are many health concerns—including lead poisoning, long-term kidney damage, and reproductive and fertility issues—that have had proven causation from lead pipes. The health risk is greater for infants, young children, and expecting mothers. However, that does not mean other adults are in the clear. If you suspect you have lead pipes, you should take precautionary actions by having them inspected and possibly even switched for copper water pipes.

Why Was Lead Used for Water Lines?

With its various health concerns, one has to wonder the following—why was lead used in the first place? In this scenario, hindsight is everything. The knowledge we have regarding lead and its downfall has only been made recently. Back in the sixties, we did not have the science or reasoning to back why water might have caused serious illnesses. The main reason lead pipes were used during and before the 1960s was for their low cost and easy installation.

How To Test if Your Water Main Is Made from Lead

If your home was built during or before the 1960s and has not had the water main replaced since then, there’s a high probability you have lead pipes. Want to find out quickly? Here’s a quick test you can do on your pipes yourself.

Lead Water Main Test:

Lead water main with indent

What you’ll need: access to where the water main enters your home, light, and a key or screwdriver.

The test is simple—what you’re trying to determine is the softness of your pipe. Lead pipes are soft and will tent or scratch when a heavier metal is applied. To perform the quick test, take your key or screwdriver and drag it with slight pressure over the pipe. If the pipe is then scratched, you may be dealing with lead. At this point, it is important to contact a local plumbing contractor to verify the material and your pipe and determine your next steps.

You Have a Lead Pipe: What Now?

Currently, it is not illegal for homeowners to have a lead water main. However, there are talks of making lead pipes illegal, which would require all homeowners to switch from lead to copper water main. Even so, you may not want to wait till the city requires a replacement. As mentioned above, there are serious health risks—not to mention structural weaknesses—of a lead water main.

As an added note, it is illegal to perform any type of a repair on a lead water main. This is due to NYC plumbing code. If you have a leaking lead water main, you should be prepared to replace the entire water main from the street to the meter inside of your home.

Preparing new copper main install

If you are concerned you might have a lead water main or have just determined it is through the simple scratch test, give us a call at Harris Water Main and Sewer. Our experienced NYC sub-surface contractors have knowledge of the concerns and options when it comes to switching from a lead to copper water main.