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Lead pipe, lead in the water

Posted by Rona Fischman October 15, 2012 01:46 PM

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One of the things that a home inspector will look at during a typical home inspection is the main water line. When I started in real estate, it was not so uncommon to find that the main line coming into the house was made of lead. Over the years, many many of those lines have been converted. An inspector threw out the number 99 percent, as the number of lines that are not lead anymore. Are you sure you are part of the 99 percent?

I have written a good bit about lead paint and the various problems related to having lead paint in a property you own. Attorney Vetstein covered the laws here. Recently, a client of ours found a lead water supply line in a condo he wanted to buy. I havenít seen a lead water supply line in a long time.

According to Health Resources in Action includes lead in drinking water as a factor in lead poisoning, although not its sole cause:

Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person's total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person's total exposure to lead.

In the city of Boston, there is a handy-dandy map to find out if a house or condo has one of the rare lead water supply lines. If it does, there is some financial help to get it brought up to the 21st century.

You can check your supply pipe. Chances are it is not lead. Hereís an overview of the kinds of supply pipes inspectors see.

The most common supply pipe that I see in my practice is copper. It is fairly simple to find out if you have a copper line coming into your house. Do this: Find your water meter. Follow the pipe out of the house below or behind the meter. If the pipe is copper colored or green (like the Statue of Liberty,) it is copper.

Copper is pretty dependable, but not perfect. Copper is a metal, so it can be corroded by the water running through it. A copper supply line can develop a leak outside your house and lead to wet spot (sometimes a fountain) in your front yard. Inside the house, look for Statue-of-Liberty-colored spots on your copper water lines. That is a sign of corrosion.

If it is grey colored, it could be lead or steel. Lead piles and Galvanized steel pipes are no longer used. Like waste pipes, steel supply lines rot from the inside out (sort of like hardening of the arteries.) When the water pressure is low in a house, a clogged up steel pipe may be the cause.

Did you inspector remark on the material used for your main water supply line? Did you need to change it?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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