In coming months, customers who are part of Denver Water’s ongoing Lead Reduction Program will begin receiving pitchers and filters certified to remove lead. The distribution of these filters, which will continue through the summer, is part of our Lead Reduction Program and has nothing to do with COVID-19. Denver Water follows drinking water regulations that have been established to prevent waterborne pathogens, such as a virus like COVID-19, from contaminating drinking water.
The primary source of lead in drinking water comes from customer-owned lead service lines, the pipe that brings water from the water main in the street to the plumbing in your home. Denver Water estimates there are 64,000 to 84,000 properties that may have lead service lines in its service area. It will take 15 years to replace all of them.
Denver Water is providing a free water pitcher, filter and replacement filters certified to remove lead to all customers who may have a lead service line to use until six months after their lead service line has been replaced. Filters will arrive in the mail beginning in spring 2020.
How does the filter program work?
We are providing all customers with a known, possible or suspected lead service line a water pitcher, filter and replacement filters at no direct charge until those customers’ service lines can be replaced. Customers will receive their filter and replacement filters in the mail beginning spring 2020.
How long will I need to use a water pitcher and filter?
Please use the water pitcher and filter and maintain it according to the manufacturer’s instructions until six months after we replace your lead service line. Denver Water expects it will take 15 years to replace the estimated 64,000-84,000 lead service lines owned by its customers.
Denver Water will work through our service area, replacing service lines on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, prioritizing those communities who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, particularly infants and children. Once we have identified your property for a service line replacement, we will include you in the Lead Service Line Replacement Program.
When do I need to use the water pitcher and filter?
Filtered water should be used for drinking (including making tea and coffee), cooking food where water is a base ingredient or absorbed into the food (such as rice, beans and soup) and preparing infant formula. It is fine to use non-filtered water for all other uses (such as showering, bathing, laundry, irrigation, dishwashing, etc.).
Is my water safe to use for a shower or bath? Is my water safe to use for teeth-brushing?
Yes. Bathing and showering are safe for you and your children. Human skin does not absorb lead in water at levels that cause a health concern. Be sure to avoid swallowing a large amount of water when brushing teeth.
Is my water safe for pets?
To be safe, check with your veterinarian and/or give your pet filtered water. Changes in pet behavior as a result of drinking lead‐contaminated water are not likely to be noticeable. In general, pets are more likely to obtain lead as a result of eating an object containing much higher lead levels (such as lead paint chips, improperly glazed ceramic food or water bowl). If you are concerned about your pet, you can provide them with filtered drinking water.
When will I receive replacement filters for the water pitcher?
Your water pitcher needs a replacement filter every six months to maintain effectiveness. We will regularly mail you free replacement filters to use until six months after your lead service line has been replaced.
What other steps can I take to reduce the risk of lead exposure?
In addition to using your water pitcher and filter, Denver Water recommends that if water has not been used in the home for a few hours, such as first thing in the morning or when getting home from work, then run cold water from the kitchen or any bathroom faucet for five minutes (you can capture the water and reuse it for gardening, washing your car, etc.). You can also run the dishwasher, take a shower or do a load of laundry to help flush out water in your internal plumbing before drinking, cooking or preparing infant formula.
Protecting formula-fed infants and expecting families in homes built between 1983 and 1987
While lead service lines haven’t been used in Denver Water’s service area since the 1950s, our analysis shows that some homes built between 1983 and 1987 have lead solder connecting sections of their interior plumbing.
Because of the large amount of water formula-fed infants ingest relative to their body size, they are particularly vulnerable to the risks of too much lead entering the body.
If water quality tests show lead levels over 3 parts per billion, Denver Water will provide you with a water pitcher, filter and replacement filters until your formula-fed infant is 24 months old.
Why is Denver Water focused on formula-fed infants and expecting families in homes built between 1983 and 1987?
While homes built between 1983 and 1987 are unlikely to have lead service lines (the primary source of lead in drinking water), Denver Water has found that some homes built between 1983 and 1987 have lead solder connecting sections of their interior plumbing, which can contribute to the presence of lead in drinking water. Additionally, fixtures and faucets installed prior to 2014 do not meet today’s requirements for “lead-free” fixtures and can be a source of lead.
Having lead solder or pre-2014 fixtures and faucets doesn’t necessarily mean you have elevated levels of lead in your water. But because of the large amount of water formula-fed infants ingest relative to their body size, they are particularly vulnerable to the risks of too much lead entering the body, which can cause serious health problems. This is why Denver Water has a program targeted to formula-fed infants and expecting families in homes built between 1983 and 1987.
Why is 3 parts per billion the cut-off to receive a filter?
As part of the process to develop and get approval for the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water had to analyze alternative approaches to its proposal. Analysis of the primary alternative, adding a chemical called orthophosphate to the water, predicted lead levels to be at 3 ppb in homes built between 1983 and 1987.
While the pH adjustment Denver Water has implemented is providing protection for all customers, we are also providing filters to expecting families and those with formula-fed infants under the age of 24 months in 1983-1987 homes with lead levels over 3 ppb in order to provide equivalent treatment to orthophosphate. You can learn more about this analysis in the program proposal and see community feedback on the proposal.
Why is 24 months the age cut-off to receive a filter?
Our program focuses on infants who are formula-fed and therefore have diets primarily consisting of tap water. By the age of 24 months, children are typically consuming a variety of foods and formula is no longer their main source of nutrition. You can follow the steps above to reduce risk for all members of your household, including children over the age of 24 months.
Should I be concerned if I’m breastfeeding?
Adults typically consume less tap water and more food in relation to their body mass. As adults will use and store less nutrients due to their slowed rate of growth, breastfed infants have a much lower risk of being exposed to lead than a bottle fed infant whose main food is produced using tap water. If you are concerned about the potential risk of lead in your drinking water, there are several steps you can take, outlined above.
Are older children and adults in my home at risk?
The Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). One ppb is equivalent to about one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It is important to note, however, that the action level is not a health indicator. Lead builds up in the body over time, so ongoing exposure, even at low levels, may eventually cause health effects. Infants and children are more vulnerable to lead than adults, whether from drinking water or other sources. Formula-fed infants are especially vulnerable to lead in drinking water because tap water is used to make up 90% of their diet.
We recommend following the steps outlined above under “What other steps can I take to reduce the risk of lead exposure?” to reduce risk for all members of your household and going to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website for more information on lead exposure. If you are concerned about the health of your children, please consult your pediatrician.