Lead Water Main Leak, Expert Advice by Harris Water
March 1, 2014

There are several immediate steps to follow in the event that you have experienced a leaking lead water main.  First and foremost, it is not advised to attempt a repair on the pipe.  A lead water pipe tends to be extremely brittle.  It is common for an attempted repair to turn into an all-out emergency which may result in a complete loss of water, or a flooded basement.

One option is to locate the house sewer trap.  The sewer trap is commonly located in the ground below the water line.  If this is the case, you should open the sewer cap closest to the house and allow the leaking water to exit into the sewer system.  This will avoid any potential flooding in the house.

Remove cap "house side"
Remove cap “house side”

Leaking pipe
Leaking pipe

Note- it is important to remove the sewer cap on the house -side to avoid any sewer gases from entering the house

If your house sewer trap is not near the leaking water main, you can use a plastic bag to control the water, place a bucket under the leak and utilize a sump pump to clear water from the house.

If you have experienced a small pinhole size leak, you can gently tape the pipe or insert a clamp where the water is exiting.  It is important to remember that this is a temporary fix with no guarantee of how long it will last and may lead to a more severe situation.

Lead water lines NYC

Lead water lines are no longer legal in NYC.  You are not required to replace a lead water line if you currently have one in your house however; it must be replaced if the water line calls for a repair.  As per NYC DEP code, it is 100% illegal to replace a lead water line and must be replaced with a new copper water line if the pipe is leaking.

Important information on lead in drinking water

Lead is a metal found in natural deposits and is commonly used in plumbing materials throughout the average home in America. The greatest exposure to lead is swallowing from tap water.

Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of health issues. In newborns and small children, exposure to lead drinking water may result in mental and physical delays, potential deficiencies in attention span and learning abilities. For adults, it may increase blood pressure and potentially develop kidney problems after drinking on a regular basis for several years.

Lead is not actually found in the NYC water supply, but is found in the private homes plumbing system.  It is most common for homes built before 1986 to have lead pipes throughout the house.

Harris replaces a lead water line

Recently, Harris was hired to replace a lead water line for a couple that was expecting their first child in the coming months.  The couple had been in the Brooklyn home for several years and now decided to replace all lead pipes in the house after reading about potential health issues for newborns.

Harris Water replaced the existing ¾” lead pipe with a new 1 ¼” copper pipe to assist in increasing the homes water pressure.  After obtaining all DOT and DEP required permits, Harris began digging on top of the city water main where the existing lead pipe was connected.

Opening roadway
Opening roadway

Installing new copper
Installing new copper

The installation required two holes in total, with the second hole being on the property.  The new pipe was installed within 5 hours of arriving on the scene.  The entire job was completed by 5 PM the same day.

Surprising to most homeowners, Harris Water Main & Sewer Contractors was able to obtain all required permits and install the new copper water line within 24 hrs.