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Sources of Lead

pipe in trenchWe pride ourselves on being a model utility in lead abatement.

In San Francisco there are no known lead service lines in the distribution system. Starting in 1982, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission began an aggressive, search-and-replace operation for lead pipes throughout our water system. We replaced all known lead service lines in our system, up to 10,000 of them.

There are likely some minor fittings and joints in older parts of our system that may still contain lead material. While the SFPUC does not have records of these locations, lead-containing parts are quickly replaced upon discovery. Additionally, the SFPUC is developing a plan to identify all service lines and sites with unknown or galvanized material. Identification of materials will occur during service line repair and replacements as well as special surveys of sites with unknown material. It could take up to seven years to identify and replace all service line of unknown or galvanized material.

Lead contamination generally occurs from corrosion of household plumbing materials that may contain lead. Our corrosion control treatment consists of maintaining alkaline water pH (above neutral) throughout our distribution system. Our corrosion control approach has been reaffirmed by our state regulatory agency, the State Water Resources Control Board.

SFPUC Programs

In conjunction with existing compliance monitoring efforts and optimized corrosion control treatment, the SFPUC has implemented the following actions with the goal of reducing the exposure of San Francisco residents to lead in drinking water.

Replacement of Lead Components

»1980s - Removed approximately 7,000 lead service lines in the San Francisco water distribution system.

»1983 - Discontinued “leaded” water main joints in the distribution system.

»2003 - Began replacing curb stop valves with lead-free units if founded.

»2008 - Began replacing water meters with lead-free units, and is now 96% complete.

Public Outreach and Education

The SFPUC has long taken a proactive approach to educating customers about lead in drinking water, its health effects, and reducing customers’ potential exposure:

»1980: Conducted free lead tests of drinking water taps at the San Francisco Unified School District.

»1994: Began providing “Lead Test for a Fee” for consumers, testing tap water for a nominal fee.

»1996: Began sending customer-focused communications regarding lead issues in bill inserts and annual Water Quality Reports.

»Participated in City & County of San Francisco’s Childhood Lead Prevention Program Task Force.

»1998: With the SFDPH, began free lead tests for Women, Infants & Children program participants; to date, more than 1,400 tests have been performed.

»2000s+: Provide lead-free faucets to childcare centers and public schools in San Francisco at no cost, and offer significantly discounted lead-free faucets to City and County of San Francisco residents via annual sales at street fairs.

In partnership with the SFDPH’s Childhood Lead Prevention Program, the SFPUC also provides laboratory services and water sampling assistance to help investigate the lead sources for cases of high blood lead levels in children residing in the City and County of San Francisco.

Legislative Action

»2006 California AB 1953 (Chan) “Lead Plumbing”:

Advocated with other local utilities for a mandate that only “lead-free” plumbing components be used in drinking water supplies. AB 1953 became state law and effective on January 1, 2010.

»2010 HR 5289 (Eshoo/Miller) “Get the Lead Out” legislation:

Supported its lead-free provisions, which were subsequently folded into senate bill S.3874, signed into law by the President on January 4, 2011. This federal lead-free requirement, similar to California AB 1953, became effective on January 1, 2014.

As a result of these laws, the plumbing components used in drinking water systems for human consumption in California have been “lead-free” since 2010.

Because we have a long history in removing lead from our system, we know that the water we deliver to our customers meets all Federal and State water quality standards. Our aggressive lead abatement strategies have made us a model for other water utilities across the country.
Last updated: 7/27/2018 12:50:38 PM