Lead Service Line Replacement Program Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. The EPA’s lead standard is an action level that requires treatment modifications if lead test results exceed 15 parts per billion (ppb) in more than 10 percent of first draw samples taken from household taps. Virginia American Water tests for lead at the end of its treatment process. Our testing has shown that lead is not an issue in the water exiting any of our water treatment facilities. We also conduct tests in our distribution system in accordance with the EPA regulatory requirements. In addition, we take steps to reduce the potential of lead leaching from service lines and household pipes into the water by managing the pH levels in the water leaving our treatment facilities and adding a corrosion inhibitor where needed. Learn more here.

Not necessarily. You might have lead in your drinking water if your service line, household plumbing or fixtures contain lead. Homes built before 1930 are more likely to have lead plumbing systems. Lead pipes are dull grey in color and scratch easily revealing a shiny surface. If your house was built before January 1986, you are more likely to have lead-soldered joints on copper piping. Lead solder is a silver or grey color. If you do, the chance of the lead leaching into your drinking water is greater when water has been standing in the pipes for more than six hours.

You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling water will not remove lead. Here are steps you can take to reduce your potential exposure if lead exists in your home plumbing:

  • Flush your taps. The longer the water lies dormant in your home’s plumbing, the more lead it might contain. If the water in your faucet has gone unused for more than six hours, flush the tap with cold water for 30 seconds to two minutes before drinking or using it to cook. To conserve water, catch the running water and use it to water your plants.
  • Use cold water for drinking and cooking. Hot water has the potential to contain more lead than cold water. If hot water is needed for cooking, heat cold water on the stove or in the microwave. 
  • Routinely remove and clean all faucet aerators.
  • Look for the “Lead Free” label when replacing or installing plumbing fixtures.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing water filters in household appliances, such as refrigerators and ice makers, as well as home water treatment units and pitchers. Look for NSF 53 certified filters. Customers can also look for NSF 42 certified filers which will help with turbidity concerns. 
  • Flush after plumbing changes. Changes to your service line, meter, or interior plumbing may result in sediment, possibly containing lead, in your water supply. Remove the strainers from each faucet and run the water for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Routinely clean faucet screens. Sediment and metals can collect in the faucet screen located at the tip of your faucets. Replace screens that are in poor condition. New screens are available at local hardware stores. Click here for instructions on how to clean your faucet screen.

For customers with lead service lines, solder or fixtures, yes. The longer the water lies dormant in your home’s plumbing, the more lead it might contain. If the water in your faucet has gone unused for more than six hours, flush the tap with cold water for 30 seconds to two minutes before drinking or using it to cook. To conserve water, catch the running water and use it to water your plants.

You can have your water tested for lead. Since you cannot see, taste or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of knowing.

Virginia American Water does not provide testing for lead for individual customers who request it. Customers can choose to have their water tested at their cost at a certified laboratory. Lead test strips that test for the presence of lead in plumbing are also available at hardware stores.

The need for a home treatment device is a customer decision. If you choose to purchase a home filter, NSF International created a Consumer Guide to NSF Certified Lead Filtration Devices for Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water. For more information, visit www.nsf.org/info/leadfiltrationguide. Always consult the device manufacturer for information on treatment device maintenance and potential impacts to your drinking water or household plumbing. The EPA also offers information on identifying drinking water filters, you can find information here.

Possibly. If grounding wires from electrical systems are attached to household plumbing, corrosion and potential lead exposure may be greater. Customers can choose to pay to have an electrician check the house wiring.

A water service line is a pipe that connects a customer’s house or building to the water main in the street. Typically, the service line is less than 2-inches in diameter and is made of various material. The most common material in use is copper, however other materials have been used including, but not limited to, galvanized steel, iron, plastic lead, and others.

Virginia American Water owns a portion of the water service line, typically from the water main to water meter, found near the street curb or sidewalk. The property owner owns the remainder of the service line, from the water meter into the house or building served. The water meter is typically located inside a water meter pit, covered with a large metal or plastic lid. See diagram.

As customer-owned service lines are privately owned and maintained, property owners are responsible for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the customer-owned portion of the service line.

Virginia American Water is seeking to remove all instances of lead from our water distribution system by replacing lead service lines. If the utility-owned or customer-owned portion of the service line at an address is made of lead, we’d like to replace it. Virginia American Water is proactively addressing the issue of lead service lines throughout the state and ensures that customers who are impacted and can often least afford it will also benefit from this program.

During planned service line replacement and water main replacement projects, Virginia American Water provides the property owner with specific information on the project and general guidance on flushing the new service line. At this time, our lead service line replacement program is only being offered as a one-time opportunity. If a property owner decides to replace a lead service line at a later date, Virginia American Water cannot guarantee that the cost would be covered.

who owns the water service line graphic

Over the years, plumbers have used many different materials, most commonly copper, plastic, lead, galvanized steel and others. If we find lead or a combination of lead and galvanized piping during a main replacement project, we will contact you to discuss replacing your service line. Replacing lead service lines reduces your potential exposure to lead.

Each year, Virginia American Water invests millions of dollars in upgrading our water infrastructure to support our continued delivery of safe and reliable water service to you. When it comes to lead/galvanized service line replacements, we prioritize these replacements in conjunction with main replacement, rehabilitation, and relocation projects using the Company’s prioritization model. This prioritization model is a sophisticated computer model that ‘ranks’ mains based on more than a dozen variables and allows our teams to make informed decisions.

As for lead/galvanized service lines, Virginia American Water will be in compliance with the required replacement of all lead service lines.

Virginia American Water is committed to removing all lead service lines. Virginia American Water will work with customers to verify the pipe material of the customer’s service line. If the service line is confirmed to be lead or galvanized steel that is or was ever downstream of lead, Virginia American Water will work to have those service lines replaced in accordance with the company's replacement plan. Customers can still use their water as you normally would as the water provided by Virginia American Water continues to meet state and federal water quality standards, including those set for lead. For more information on our approach please click here

Annually, Virginia American Water plans to have identified work areas for the following year. Several factors drive when and where service lines are replaced. The company prioritizes communities who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, particularly infants and children. Areas with large numbers of facilities that serve these populations, such as schools and daycares, are prioritized. Other determining factors include areas with the highest concentration of lead service lines, underserved neighborhoods and coordination with other known construction activity.

Once work areas are identified, the company will determine the timing for individual properties in that work area. Once a property has been identified as qualifying for a service line replacement, the company will send additional information about the replacement process and next steps. Qualifying properties will receive service line replacements at no direct charge to the property owner. Replacement notification typically comes a month or two before the anticipated replacement date.

Additionally, the company will also replace any customer-owned lead service line with a copper or plastic water line, at no direct charge to the customer, when discovered during a main replacement project.

Each year, Virginia American Water replaces lead and/or galvanized service lines when the company identifies them while completing infrastructure investment projects and sometimes emergency repair work. During these projects, Virginia American Water will replace the utility-owned service line if it is made of lead and/or galvanized material. Additionally, as part of the new legislation, Virginia American Water will also replace lead and/or galvanized lines in accordance with the prioritization model.

The company will not be replacing lead and/or galvanized service lines upon request, but rather as a programmed and planned activity to achieve as many economies of scale as possible in completing lead and/or galvanized service line replacements. If a customer chooses to replace their own line at their own expense, they must notify Virginia American Water by calling 1-800-452-6863. If the utility-owned line is made of lead and/or galvanized steel, we do not recommend replacing only the customer-owned side, as science has shown an elevation in lead levels when a lead and/or galvanized service line is only partially replaced. The recommended course of action is to replace the entire line (utility-owned and customer-owned) at the same time. 

Virginia American Water will proceed with replacing the utility-owned portion of the service line and will connect the new service to the existing service at the customer property line. Virginia American Water will communicate with the customer about lead and drinking water, health effects, exposures to lead, flushing recommendations, ways to reduce exposure to lead, testing for lead, frequently asked questions, and further contact information. In accordance with the regulation, if a property owner refuses and/or fails to respond to have their service line replaced Virginia American Water is required to provide the property owner information to Virginia Department of Public Health.

You can find out more information by visiting our More Resources page.