Important Message To Residents About Potential For Elevated Lead Levels In Drinking Water And How To Reduce Lead In Your Residential Service Lines
Every year, the Andover Water Division tests the lead levels in water from 30 homes that may have lead service lines or lead solder. The Andover Water Division found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes/buildings during the June 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021 monitoring period. Six homes tested above the Action Level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Although most homes have very low levels of lead in their drinking water, some homes may still have lead levels above the EPA and State Action Level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). To monitor lead levels, Andover tests tap water in homes that are most likely to have lead. These homes are usually older homes that may have lead service lines or lead solder, and they must be tested after water has been sitting overnight. The EPA rule requires that 90% of these worst-case samples must have lead levels below the Action Level of 15 ppb. In order to further monitor lead levels, Andover will be moving to a semi-annual sampling schedule and increasing the number of homes we monitor from 30 to 60.
The water provided by Andover is lead-free when it leaves Haggetts Pond. Local distribution pipes that carry the water to your community are made mostly of iron and steel, and therefore do not add lead to water. However, lead can get into tap water through lead piping, lead solder used in plumbing, and some brass faucets and fixtures. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in the water.
Please read this information below closely to see what you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water.
Health Effects of Lead
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.
Sources of Lead
Lead is a common metal found in the environment. Common sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint, household dust, soil, and some plumbing materials and fixtures. Lead can also be found in other household items such as pottery, makeup, toys, and even food. Lead paint was outlawed in 1978, but dust from homes that still have lead paint is the most common source of exposure to lead. Therefore, make sure to wash your children’s hands and toys often as they can come into contact with dirt and dust containing lead.
Even though the use of lead solder was banned in the U.S. in 1986, it still might be present in older homes.
The corrosion or “wearing away” of these lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, particularly if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use. Therefore, water that has been sitting in household pipes for several hours, such as in the morning, or after returning from work or school, is more likely to contain lead. If high levels of lead are found in drinking water, water may typically contribute up to 20 percent of a person’s exposure to lead. However, infants who consume mostly formula, mixed with lead-containing water, can receive up to 60 percent of their exposure from water.
Test Your Home for Lead
The only way to determine the level of lead in drinking water at your home is to have the water tested by a state-certified laboratory. Andover residents can have their water tested for lead by contacting Water Treatment Plant lab personnel at 978-623-8870 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Homes that are known to have a lead service line can have their water tested at the state-certified treatment plant laboratory free of charge. If your home is not known to have lead components, treatment plant staff will help with the coordination of analysis at another state-certified laboratory. The cost of a test is usually between $10 and $50. Consider having your paint tested also. A list of labs is available online or you can call MassDEP at 978-682-5237 or e-mail Labcert@state.ma.us. You can also view our document, Certified Laboratories for Homeowner Testing.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water
Listed below are steps that you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water:
- Run your water to flush out lead - Freshwater is better than stale: If your water has been sitting for several hours, run the water until it is consistently cold – this usually takes about 15-30 seconds – before drinking or cooking with it. This flushes water which may contain lead from pipes. Run water for 5 minutes if you have a lead service line or any lead pipes in your home plumbing.
- Use cold, freshwater for cooking and preparing baby formula: Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
- Do not boil your water to remove lead or copper. Boiling water will not reduce lead. Excessive boiling of water makes the lead and copper more concentrated – the lead and copper remains when the water evaporates.
- Other steps to reduce lead can be taken such as replacing plumbing containing lead or installing a filter that reduces lead. Even faucets labeled as “lead-free” may contain lead.
- Consider having your lead service line replaced if it contains lead.
- It is also suggested that parents have their child’s blood tested for lead through their health care provider.
Other Information and Links
For More Information
Call us at (978) 623-8703 or email email@example.com to find out if your home has a lead service line and for more information on how to remove it.
For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home/building and the health effects of lead, visit:
- Questions about Andover’s drinking water?
Most questions can be answered by reading Andover’s Annual Water Quality Report. The report is issued in the spring of each year and presents data for the previous calendar year to comply with both US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) reporting requirements.
- Is Andover's water considered "hard" or "soft"?
The Town of Andover’s drinking water, which has a total hardness of 40 mg/L as CaCO3, is considered “soft water” according to the ranges set by the USEPA. There is no US EPA drinking water standard for hardness, only set ranges to define the degree of hardness.
By definition, hardness is the total concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. Hard water is not considered a contaminant, but it does retard the cleaning action of soap and can form a scale on cooking utensils, hot water pipes, and heaters. Soft water may have corrosive tendencies; however, the pH of Andover’s drinking water is adjusted before leaving the water treatment plant making it non-corrosive and non-scale forming.
- What is the source for Andover’s drinking water?
Andover’s drinking water source includes Haggetts Pond and the surrounding 1442 acres of watershed area. The pond is supplemented with additional waters from Fish Brook and the Merrimack River.
- How is Andover’s water treated?
The Town of Andover operates a municipal drinking water treatment facility. For more information on the treatment process, please view the virtual tour of the plant.
- What if I have discolored water?
Discolored water can often occur during prolonged periods of high temperatures and demands on the water distribution system. Similar to when hydrants are flushed, the water velocity – or the speed at which water moves through the system – increases during high demand. During typical demand, sediments that are naturally part of the water settle. But when water demand is high, the settling does not occur, and this results in discoloration that some residents may be experiencing. When the demand slows down, the sediment settles and only reappears when demand increases. The discoloration is an aesthetic issue, and there are no health risks associated with discolored water.
Andover conducts a comprehensive flushing program to reduce minerals and deposits in the pipes and improve the quality of the water. This practice not only extends the life of our water mains, but also improves water quality. When flushing is being performed, there may be temporary discoloration in the immediate neighborhoods where flushing is taking place.
What to do if you experience discolored water:
• Run cold water to help flush the system; running an outside spigot, basement sink, or bathtub can help clear the water lines surrounding your home
• Determine if the discoloration is isolated to cold or hot water
• Take note of the time and date that the discoloration was noticed
• If you have experienced discoloration while washing clothing, the Water Department supplies a product that will help remove any discoloration. This product can be picked up at 5 Campanelli Drive from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday – Friday.
• If discoloration is still evident, call the Water Division’s Discolored Water line at (978) 623-8707 or send an email to MSDiscoloredWater@andoverma.us. Include your name, address, and the day and time the discolored water occurred in your message.
- Do you provide water testing services for town residents?
The laboratory is limited in the parameters that can be tested for town residents. We are not able to provide testing to solve an internal plumbing issue, or to determine what type of filter you should purchase if your plumber has recommended one. Testing cannot be done for well water or businesses, regardless of location.
Should you have specific water quality concerns and you are an Andover Municipal Water Customer, please contact the Chemist via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your name, address, phone number, and your questions.
After the laboratory chemist has spoken with you, if testing is warranted, arrangements will be made for you to pick up sample collection bottles and sampling instructions.
Samples must be returned to the laboratory for analysis, within 24 hours of sample collection, along with a completed Chain of Custody. We will only accept samples that have been collected in the sample bottles supplied by our lab.
Tests are done as a courtesy and at no charge to residents, and analysis is performed using in-house instrumentation. We are not certified for the majority of analyses.
There is a minimum two-week turn-around time from the time samples are delivered to the laboratory and a report is issued.
Residents that are known to have a partial or full lead water service line may request analysis for lead and copper in their water. Testing for these analytes requires specific sampling containers and instructions. It may take up to four weeks for sample results to be reported to you.
There are many laboratories in the region that may be able to provide you with water quality testing resources. We advise that you use a MADEP certified laboratory that will accept residential samples. Please view our document, Certified Laboratories for Homeowner Testing for a list of certified laboratories.