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Frequently Asked Questions about Lead

How does lead get into drinking water?
While Tulsa’s drinking water does not contain lead when it leaves the water treatment plants, trace amounts of lead can come into contact with the drinking water through the corrosion of plumbing materials such as lead service lines, lead solder used in plumbing, and lead or some brass fixtures inside a home.

To protect against this corrosion in plumbing materials, the City of Tulsa operates an extensive corrosion control program. City staff control water chemistry and maintain properties of high quality, non-corrosive water by conducting daily testing of factors such as pH and alkalinity, and they also conduct regular tests of water from household faucets.

In addition, the City of Tulsa does not have lead water mains. The water distribution system that carries water from the treatment plants to your neighborhoods is comprised of different pipe materials, including: cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel, galvanized steel, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and HDPE (high density polyethylene).

Why lead in tap water is a health concern

  • Lead can be harmful. It can impact normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, cause deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and increase blood pressure in adults.
  • If your house has a lead service line, the lead from your home’s pipes may leach into water you drink. EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of lead exposure in young children may come from drinking water, and infants raised on mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure from drinking water.

Do we have any lead service lines in Tulsa?
It is difficult to determine the remaining number of lead service lines in our water system. Since the 1980s, repair crews have been replacing lead service lines and fittings between the water main and a customer’s meter as they are encountered. There are no historical records showing which houses were constructed with lead service lines, or where lead service lines were removed in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Water mains are larger water lines that are not made of lead. They carry water from the City’s water treatment plants to different parts of the city.
  • City service lines are the smaller segment of pipe from the water main to the home’s water meter.
  • Private service lines are the segment of pipe from the water meter to the residence. Private service lines are the responsibility of the homeowner.

In our community, some of the private service lines that connect older homes (typically those constructed before 1940) to the utility water main may be made from lead.

  • To determine if your home has a lead service line, hire a licensed plumber to inspect the private service line. There are no historical records showing which houses were constructed with lead service lines, or where lead service lines were removed in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Please reference the Age of Waterlines Map to see if your neighborhood has waterlines installed prior to the 1940s, or please visit the Tulsa County Assessor’s office to confirm the construction date of your house.
  • If your home has a private lead service line, it is likely that other sources of lead – such as lead piping and plumbing – may exist in the home as well. 

What happens if your home tests positive for lead?
If a plumber identifies you have a private service line or believes there is the possibility your home could have lead solder on copper plumbing, the City can analyze your home’s water for lead and advise you of options to eliminate or reduce any health risks. Those options can include:

  • Replacing the lead private service line from their house to the water meter, if one exists.
  • Encouraging the homeowner to replace any indoor plumbing that may be leaching lead into water.
  • Adding a home water treatment device.