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Information About Lead

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water and service line graphicThe City of Oklahoma City guarantees the quality of your water from our treatment plants to the meter on your property.

This includes compliance with safety standards for lead. The pipes between your water meter and your faucets are your responsibility. 

Public Water Lines

About 3,000 miles of water pipes are beneath the streets and landscapes of Oklahoma City. These are the public water supply pipes that deliver about 100 million gallons of water a day to Oklahoma City’s residents and businesses. These pipelines are maintained by the City of Oklahoma City Utilities Department.

Before 1900 lead was commonly used to make water pipes. The oldest pipe found in Oklahoma City’s system was installed in 1902, and it is made of cast iron – not lead. In some older areas of the water system, lead-based solder was used to seal the joint where two pieces of pipe were connected. Many years ago, City staff used lead solder to connect a pigtail pipe from the water main to the water meter. Pigtail is the section of pipe beyond the water meter, which is the City’s responsibility to maintain. The pigtail is generally copper, plastic or galvanized steel and can vary in length. The standard length is around 18 to 24 inches beyond the meter.

When EPA’s Drinking Water Lead and Copper Rule went into effect, city staff started removing lead pipes connecting the water main to the meter whenever found during repair. The city repairs an average of 2,000 public service lines a year. Between 1993 and 2003, city staff removed around 300 public service lines a year that were made of lead. Since 2003, city crews have found still fewer lead service lines, removing about 60 a year.

Private Water Service Lines 

Private water pipes deliver water to houses or commercial properties. The private water lines are installed by the builder and are the property owner’s responsibility.  Private water lines begin at the water meter and go throughout the property. This is your treated tap water for your home or business.  City crews work only on public lines.  A plumber can help with private water lines. 

If your house was built before 1960, the water service lines may be made of lead. The service line is private property and starts at the water meter and ends at the house. Water service lines are installed by builders to connect structures to the City’s water main. A plumber can tell what material a service line is made of.

Remember, service lines are not part of the OKC water system and are the homeowner’s responsibility. Lead service lines are generally a dull gray and are soft. They can be scratched with a key or coin that won’t puncture the pipe. If the pipe is lead, the scratch will be the color of a nickel.

A broken service line presents a good time to replace the entire lead line. When replacing plumbing and water fixtures, look for products that are NSF certified and bear the NSF mark. It certifies the product meets new lead-free requirements. 

Lead Testing

Every three years, Water Quality Lab staff tests water in areas known to have lead pipes, copper pipes or lead solder in their plumbing, based on the year the house was built and guidelines provided by the Department of Environmental Quality. The staff delivers sample bottles and instructions to those who agree to have their home’s tap water tested. A resident fills the sample bottle with tap water, sets it on the porch and calls to have it collected.

Lab staff tests as many customers as possible to ensure that the 3,000 miles of pipe network is being sampled. 

The Lead and Copper Rule

This rule was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency to help make sure copper or lead stays on the pipe and does not leach into the drinking water. Every three years, staff tests tap water from selected homes, with the customer collecting the sample. Water Quality staff monitors the quality of Oklahoma City’s tap water continuously to make sure it is always fresh and clean to drink and use.

Consumer Confidence Report

Every year, Oklahoma City’s Water Quality Lab staff prepares a consumer confidence report. It provides information on how well OKC tap water stacks up in terms of taste and quality. This report is published on the city’s web site for public use. Water Quality Lab chemists monitor the water and report their findings to the Department of Environmental Quality.

At all three water treatment plants – Draper, Hefner and Overholser – staff tests the water constantly. In fact, they exceed the regulatory requirement of testing water every four hours by testing the water every two hours – on raw water, treated water and water leaving the plant – then conduct quality assurance and quality control processes to ensure the accuracy of their tests. Operators also receive continuous information from instruments throughout the plant. In addition, technicians and chemists in the Water Quality Laboratory conduct weekly tests on the source lake water and on the tap water throughout the entire distribution system.

Oklahoma City’s team of water quality experts go to great lengths to deliver great-tasting tap water throughout metro Oklahoma City.  It’s a 24/7, 365-day-a-year responsibility that they take very seriously. After all, water is their business.