Lead and Water

health effects of lead

West Allis is committed to revitalizing health in its community by encouraging individuals to remove lead service lines.

There are numerous health effects caused by lead exposure, including irreversible interference to brain and nervous system development. There is no safe amount of lead exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “People with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility.” While lead is harmful to all ages, children under 6 and women who are pregnant are at a higher risk.

Lead poisoning can affect just about every system in the body yet often produces no obvious symptoms. The following are some of the most common symptoms of lead poisoning. However, each child may experience effects differently. Lead poisoning may cause:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Headaches and persistent abdominal pain
  • Anemia

How does lead get into water?

Lead is a common, naturally occurring metal found throughout the environment. Lead is not found in Lake Michigan surface water or in our source of water treated by Milwaukee Water Works. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion or wearing away of materials in the water distribution system and household plumbing that contains lead.  The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures. Certain pipes that carry drinking water from the water source to the home may contain lead.  Household plumbing fixtures, welding solder, and pipe fittings made prior to 1986 may also contain lead.

American Water Works Association (AWWA) Video - Let's Get the Lead Out


How do I know if my property has lead in the water supply line?

The City of West Allis Municipal Water Utility is responsible for maintaining the water service later that runs from the water main up to and including the shut off valve outside the property called the curb stop. The property owner owns the water service lateral after the curb stop to the property and all the plumbing inside of the property except the water meter. A licensed plumber may be able to assist in determining your property's plumbing conditions as well as the costs associated with a service lateral replacement.

If your property was built before 1953, your water service lateral was originally installed using lead piping materials. It is possible that some of the property's internal plumbing fixtures also contain lead. Even copper piping may have lead solder joints. Call the West Allis Municipal Water Utility at 414-302-8830 to find out more information about your service line pipe material or use the interactive tool below:

Identifying Service Line Material - Interactive Tool

Water Service Pipes

How do I get my water tested for lead?

You can't see, smell, or taste lead in your water. Testing at the tap is the only way to measure the lead levels. If you choose to have your tap water tested, use a private laboratory properly certified by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Northern Lakes Services, Inc.
2420 N Grandview Boulevard
Waukesha, WI 53188
Phone: 262-547-3406

Order a Lead Test Kit

Suburban Laboratories
10520 N. Baehr Rd., Ste J
Mequon, WI 53092
Phone 262-661-5170

Order a Lead Test Kit

State Lab of Hygiene
2601 Agriculture Drive
Madison, WI 53707
Phone: 800-442-4618

Order a Lead Test Kit

What can I do to reduce lead in my tap water?

Flush your tap water to limit potential exposure. Let the cold water run from each drinking water tap until it is noticeably colder (2 or more minutes) and before using for cooking or drinking. Flushing the tap is particularly important when the faucet hasn't been used for a few hours or more. It takes time for lead to leach into water, so the first water drawn from the tap in the morning or after a long period of non-use can contain higher levels of lead. Flushing clears any standing water from your plumbing and home service line to ensure you are getting drinking water from the main, where lead is rarely present. You can use the water from flushing for non-potable purposes such as watering plants or washing dishes.

  • Use only cold water for cooking or drinking. Lead leaches more easily into hot water than cold water. Boiling water does not remove lead.
  • Remove faucet strainers and rinse them periodically to remove any debris.
  • Use water filters to reduce lead. Several different types of water filters have been certified by the National Science Foundation for reducing lead in drinking water.
  • Pour-through pitcher carafe: Water drips through a filter in a water pitcher using gravity
  • Faucet mount: Mounts on kitchen faucet and uses a diverter to direct water through a filter
  • Counter top connected to sink faucet: Connects to existing sink faucet through a hose/tubing
  • Plumbed to separate tap or sink: Installs under a sink, filters water, and dispenses it through a separate faucet directly to the kitchen sink
  • Refrigerator filter: Installed in your refrigerator and typically dispensed through the refrigerator door

epa_lead_in_drinking_water_final_8.21.17 (1)

What is the City of West Allis doing to replace lead services?

As a standard practice with our water main replacement projects we are replacing old lead water service laterals with new copper materials from the water main to the curb stop.

What are other sources of information?