The lead contamination problems in Flint, Michigan cause many of us to wonder about our own water. There is good reason to be concerned. After all, the problems that lead poisoning can cause children are profound and possibly life changing.
There are lead pipes in the Omaha area. The pipes of concern are the water service lines that run from the street to an individual home or building. Each building’s owner is responsible for their own lines, not MUD.
Lead service lines can be found in homes built prior to 1950. Up until 1960, some lines that are not completely lead can still have lead solder at the joints. To determine if a service line is lead, a home inspector looks at the water line leading to the water shut off and meter. A lead line has an oval-shaped area about 2-3” prior to where it connects to the meter (note the photo). Some other service line types are galvanized lines, copper and CPVC plastic lines (normally seen in homes with wells). To help you differentiate between those: galvanized lines have threads at the end of the pipe and copper has that distinctive copper color.
The lead emergency in Flint apparently occurred because the officials in charge failed to add anti-corrosion chemicals to the water when they switched their water source to the river. This caused the water to eat away at the protective coating that had naturally built-up inside the lead pipes. Without that coating, the lead had access to get into the water. Failing to follow this basic industry standard of practice has caused their problems.
MUD has stated that they do follow these practices. Meaning that this protective coating has formed, and therefore, Omaha water has been found to meet safety standards. There are presently a number of independent groups that are also spot-testing Omaha homes for lead contamination.
Repair and replacement of lead service pipes can be costly. We periodically find lead service pipes leaking at the water meter. Most plumbers today do not know how to work on lead pipes or choose not to. Just finding someone to do repairs can be problematic. When the service line from the house to the street is replaced, the cost can range from $5-$10,000 or more. The yard, and sometimes the driveway, must be dug up to accomplish this.
To reassure a buyer about the safety of their water, a water test can be completed by local labs. This usually takes several days for results. Some home inspectors can complete this test and deliver the samples to a lab. This is suggested if you have concerns about the safety of the water. Lead is an issue in our city. We as a community need to do what we can to ensure our children’s safety.
We are a locally owned home inspection company serving the metro areas of Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska.