Mansfield’s Lead and Copper Sampling Plan
Lead in drinking water has been a national issue since the story of Flint, Michigan broke. In light of those events, Mansfield Water Utilities wanted to share our lead and copper sampling plan with the community we serve. Lead in drinking water is primarily a result of the corrosion—or wearing away—of materials containing lead in service lines and household plumbing. These materials include lead based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets and, in some cases, lead pipes that connect homes to the water main (service lines).
Out of 290 miles of water pipeline in Mansfield, no more than two miles are cast iron or galvanized steel which greatly limits exposure from the City’s supply side. Every year water is tested for lead at the Bud Ervin Water Treatment Plant before it enters the distribution system to ensure that our source water (from the lakes) does not contain lead. These source water test results have always shown no detectable levels of lead.
The Environmental Protection Agency first promulgated the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates all water sampling in the State of Texas including lead and copper. Mansfield has been on a reduced monitoring schedule for lead and copper since the late Nineties due to lead levels that are well below the action level or are undetectable. Targeted sampling sites are homes built between 1983 and 1989, as the national lead ban went into effect in 1986. We currently test 30 samples every three years.
Because lead is primarily present in drinking water due to the leaching from pipes, Mansfield Water Utilities adjusts the treatment process to make the water more stable and therefore less corrosive. This reduces the risk of lead being leached from any potential problem areas.
The most recent lead and copper testing occurred in 2015. Every sample had lead levels that were undetectable or were significantly below the Environmental Protection Agency’s Action Level of 15 ppb (parts per billion).
There are steps all customers can take to reduce their exposure to lead in drinking water. Running cold water from the faucets used for drinking and cooking can improve water quality by drawing fresh water into the home or building. This is particularly important after long periods of time when water has not been used, such as overnight, after work or upon returning from vacation.
For more information, please see our list of frequently asked questions.
Why is lead and copper testing done in Mansfield?
Lead and copper testing is done to determine if water treatment techniques used by the Mansfield Water Utilities (“MWU”) are consistently effective in minimizing the corrosiveness of the water delivered to its customers, right up to the customer’s faucet, in accordance with drinking water regulations. The treatment of water to minimize corrosion greatly reduces customers’ exposure to unsafe levels of lead or copper. The regulations covering what is known as the Lead and Copper Rule were set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) and adopted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”).
What is meant by the corrosiveness of the water?
Water, by its very nature, is corrosive to most metals over time. Corrosive is just another term to describe the ability of water to dissolve lead or copper in a customer’s plumbing into the drinking water. A water treatment facility can minimize water’s corrosive tendencies by adjusting the pH (acidity) of the water, monitoring the amount of dissolved minerals in the water which may inhibit corrosion and lastly, by possibly adding other chemicals, such as phosphates, to protect the water pipes.
Where does lead or copper found in drinking water come from?
Lead or copper can be found naturally in water reservoirs throughout Texas, but at extremely low levels. In fact, levels of lead and copper in reservoirs are so low that they are not a health concern. However, if water is not properly treated to minimize its corrosive tendencies, the water delivered to customers can dissolve lead or copper found in a customer’s own plumbing.
Does my home contain lead and copper?
Most likely yes. Copper piping is very common in homes built over the last 50 years. Copper piping was also connected using lead-tin solder (a soft metal that was melted, then cooled and solidified) and a lead-containing flux which aided in the connection or soldering process. In addition, in many plumbing fixtures such as kitchen or bathroom faucets, lead was added to the metal brass to make it easier to manufacture the faucets. Although lead has been used extensively in piping for drinking water pipes in areas east of the Mississippi River, the good news is most, if not all, homes in the Mansfield area never used lead as a piping material for drinking water plumbing. Lead has largely been banned from plumbing fixtures in the United States.
Is there anything I can do to protect myself from high levels of lead or copper dissolved from my own plumbing?
Yes, the most effective way to reduce exposure to lead and copper from a home’s plumbing is to always allow the water to run until the water is noticeably cooler than when the faucet was opened. This allows the amount of water sitting in the homes water line to be flushed away before water is used for consumption. This flushing has been consistently shown through testing to be very effective in reducing lead and copper exposure.
How is the water in Mansfield tested for lead and copper?
The water is tested for lead and copper using the precise protocol outlined by the USEPA. This protocol is designed to test for lead and copper under the worst conditions possible. For instance, lead and copper samples are collected from “first draw” samples, meaning the water has been in contact with a customer’s plumbing for at least six hours without disruption and will be the first water drawn in the morning. Since water can dissolve metals into the water through a process known as leaching, drawing the first water from a faucet in the morning should provide the worst conditions possible for lead and copper leaching. Additionally, since water can become more corrosive the warmer it becomes, samples must be taken during the summer months. Lastly, since these metals can flake off and be caught in a faucet strainer, strainers are not removed before sampling.
How many samples are tested for lead and copper in Mansfield?
Testing under the USEPA protocol requires a certain number of samples based upon the population being served by the Water Utility. In the case of the MWU, the initial sampling protocol required 60 samples to be analyzed.
Has the original sampling protocol changed?
Yes, because the MWU has had excellent results with its lead and copper control program, TCEQ has allowed the MWU to reduce the frequency of sampling from every year to every three years. The number of samples has been reduced to 30 samples.
Who collects the samples In Mansfield?
The customers of homes selected for testing collect the samples. Since it would not be practical for water utility sampling personnel to collect samples of the first water drawn very early in the morning in a customer’s home, the customers themselves after receiving instructions from the MWU collected the samples.
How were the sample sites for the MWU selected?
Again, following the USEPA protocol of attempting to determine the worst case scenario for lead or copper testing.
Who analyzes “first draw” lead and copper samples collected by customers?
All the lead and copper samples analyzed for the MWU were analyzed by laboratories selected by the TCEQ. MWU personnel did not collect nor analyze the samples.
How can I access the results of lead and copper testing in Mansfield?
The results can also be found on the Texas Drinking Water website that is maintained by TCEQ at http://dww2.tceq.texas.gov/DWW//JSP/WaterSystemDetail.jsp?tinwsys_is_number=5806&tinwsys_st_code=TX&wsnumber=TX2200018&DWWState=TX
Can I have my home tested for lead and copper?
Yes, but this is generally a test that is done by a private laboratory, for a fee. If your home is one that has been selected as a sample site through the ongoing lead and copper testing program, you will receive the test results from that testing. However, if your home is not part of the program, the MWU can provide you with a list of private certified laboratories that are capable of analyzing water samples for lead and copper content.
What have Mansfield’s lead and copper test results indicated about our water?
The MWU lead and copper testing has consistently shown levels of these metals to be well below the Action Level (“AL”) set by USEPA. Customers can find more details about previous lead and copper results by visiting https://www.mansfieldtexas.gov/water-quality
What are the Action Levels for lead and copper?
The AL for lead is that no more than 10% of the samples analyzed may exceed the level of 0.015 ppm. For copper, no more than 10% of the samples analyzed can exceed the level of 1.3 ppm. The reason these are called Action Levels is because if a water utility fails to meet these levels, additional actions must be taken by the utility to reduce the corrosiveness of its water. Additionally, if a utility cannot control the corrosiveness of its water after these additional actions, the water utility system may be required to remove parts of the water distribution system that contain lead or copper. Fortunately, further actions to treat the water in Mansfield are not called for.