Is your drinking water lead-free?

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Luis Ortiz grew up drinking water from the tap, but now worried about the safety of his wife and children, he spends a lot of money stocking up on bottled water.

His fear of tap water only heightened after thousands of children were exposed to lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan.

“Just the fact that it’s a major issue somewhere else, I’m just trying to stay away from tap water completely,” he said.

Francine Walker of Chemical Solutions LTD, an analytical testing lab in Harrisburg, says the biggest concern of lead in drinking water is the effect it has on children.

“It causes hyperactivity in children, lower IQ, a lot of developmental disorders that can be linked to lead exposure,” Walker said.

But lead is colorless and odorless. Finding out if it’s in your water can be tricky.

“The only way, really, to know that is to have your water tested by a testing laboratory,” Walker said.

ABC27 collected water samples from five homes across the Midstate, including Ortiz’s home, and took them to Chemical Solutions for testing. The Environmental Protection Agency has established the lead and copper rule, with an acceptable limit of lead in drinking water at 15 parts per billion. If water companies have more than 10 percent of homes exceeding that limit, notifications must go out to customers.

“If you live in a house generally built before 1935, you may have a lead service line that enters your house,” said Jeff Hines, president of York Water Company.

York Water recently had six homes with lead levels above the limit, forcing the company to take action by replacing lead service lines over the next four years. The water it supplied to Ortiz, at least the sample we collected, came back with undetectable amounts of lead.

Tests on the other homes showed the water is safe to drink, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the water coming from your tap is clean.

“The water that leaves our treatment plant and goes through our pipes does not have lead in it,” Hines said. “The lead gets picked up from either a lead service line entering the house or lead plumbing within the house.”

Hines says if you have lead pipes in your home, you should flush for about three minutes any water that’s been sitting in your faucet for six hours or more.

“Or instead of three minutes from the faucet, you could take a shower or flush a toilet and then run this for 30 seconds to a minute to clean out your lines,” he said.

But despite the news that his water is clear of lead, Ortiz says he doesn’t plan on changing his drinking habits.

“Whether or not the results are good or bad, it’s not what I’m going to be drinking anyway,” he said. “I’m hoping for the best, though.”

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