Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, pottery, food and water.
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Lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. These effects may include increases in the blood pressure of some adults; delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children; and, deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants and pregnant women.
Structures built before the lead ban will be at a higher risk. The lead ban went into effect in Texas in 1988. Plumbing installed before 1988 can have lead in the solder, pipes, faucets, or fixtures, which can leach into the water supply over time.
Developments built in the past 35 years would have neither lead service lines nor private plumbing lines that are lead, but plumbing fixtures in the home or business could contain lead. From 1986 to 2014, plumbing fixtures could contain up to 8% lead to be categorized as, “Lead free.” However, current standards for “lead-free” fixtures allow no more than 0.25% of lead content.
The City of Sugar Land has no information on the type of material used in private plumbing lines inside homes and business. Customers who think their home or business could be at risk can hire a licensed plumber to perform an inspection.
Customers may also be able to identify their plumbing material themselves using a key or coin and a refrigerator magnet:
Use a Key or coin to scrape a small area on the pipe. Check to see if a magnet will stick to the pipe.
Currently, in Sugar Land, we have no known lead service lines. Water system records do not indicate any lead service lines in the portion of the distribution system owned by the city. However, to achieve compliance with new EPA regulations, we must verify whether lead materials are in any of the city-owned and customer-owned portions of each service line connected to the water systems. This inventory will be completed by October 2024, and it will be made available to the public on the city’s website.
To complete this inventory, city staff are conducting an extensive review of all historical records pertaining to the water systems. Staff are also collecting data on service line materials during normal operations, such as repair and replacement of service lines and meters. Staff may also need to perform visual inspections of the meter box or perform minor excavation near the meter box to identify the materials on both side of the meter.
If the service lines at your address are suspected to contain lead, you will receive a letter with additional information.
Corrosive water can dissolve lead from plumbing materials in service lines and home plumbing. By using chemicals to control the corrosivity of the water, lead exposure can be reduced. The City of Sugar Land has a corrosion control plan, as part of the Lead and Copper Rule. The system’s corrosion control technique is to adjust pH so the treated water is non-corrosive to metal. Over time, this process has resulted in Sugar Land’s treated water forming a protective scale on the inside of pipes that prevents the leaching out of materials such as lead.
In 2021, TCEQ approved optimal pH ranges for the system to operate within at all times. Monitoring is performed every two weeks at the point where the treated water leaves each treatment plant and quarterly at locations throughout the distribution system. Results of this monitoring are reported to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The City of Sugar Land conducts lead and copper testing, as required by the TCEQ. Samples are collected and analyzed every three years from each of the city’s water systems. The City of Sugar Land was awarded a reduced sampling schedule of every three years because we have repeatedly demonstrated that the water systems meet the federal government's requirements. To date, the 90th percentile results for all of the city’s sampling events have been well below the Action Level of 0.015 mg/l for lead.
The City of Sugar Land is responsible for providing drinking water that meets all federal and state standards but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components found in homes and other buildings. If you are worried about lead exposure, here are some steps you can take:
If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead, you may want to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory.
A list of certified laboratories is available on the TCEQ website (TX Drinking Water Public Labs - Lead and Copper Testing - Google My Maps). Contact labs directly for information on cost and sampling bottles.
Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791 or EPA’s website (https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water).