NI Water encourage homeowners to check for lead pipes

NI Water urges customers to check for lead piping in their home if it was built before 1970.

Lead pipes result in lead concentrations in your drinking water that are above the limit values ​​specified in the Drinking Water Ordinance and can be harmful to your health. It is therefore important to check if there are lead pipes on your property.

Head of Drinking Water Regulation Dymphna Gallagher explains: “There is almost no lead in drinking water when it leaves our water treatment plants or our water mains. Lead in drinking water usually comes from household lead pipes.

“Lead piping is prevalent in older homes built before 1970. If your property was built before 1970, we recommend that you check for the presence of lead piping and, if present, consider replacing the lead piping in your property.

“NI Water is addressing this issue in two ways, chemical treatment, the use of orthophosphoric acid, and the replacement of NI Water’s lead communication lines. Orthophosphoric acid is added to the water supply at our water treatment plants across Northern Ireland, helping to reduce the amount of lead leaching into water from contact with lead plumbing.

“NI Water began a proactive lead pipe replacement program in 2013. Since 2015, we have replaced an average of 1,844 lead communication tubes per year. A similar program continues in the current price control period PC21 (April 2021 to March 2027). As part of this program, customers are notified when lead communications lines (the responsibility of NI Water) have been replaced and encouraged to replace their lead umbilical (the responsibility of the customer). If we are not currently working in your area and you decide to replace your lead supply pipe on your property, you can ask us to replace our communications pipe, which we will do free of charge.”

Some simple checks include:

Look in or behind the cabinets in your kitchen. You may also need to look elsewhere such as B. in the closet under the stairs. Find the pipe that leads to the kitchen faucet. Check that it is guided along its length as far as possible. Unpainted lead pipes are dull gray, the surface is soft to the touch. If you gently scrape the surface with a kitchen knife, you’ll see the shiny, silver-colored metal underneath;
Open the shut-off valve flap outside your property. Examine the pipe leading from the shutoff valve to your property. If you can, gently scrape its surface;
Some other pipe materials you might come across that are normal and don’t need to be replaced are copper, iron, and plastic;
If you’re still unsure, ask an installer for a second opinion.

If you find lead pipes, you should have them replaced as soon as possible. Visit for more information and advice on this.

Short term lead pipe precautions:

Let the water run: When you wake up in the morning, run the cold kitchen faucet to flush out the water that’s been sitting in the pipes overnight. A full sink should do the trick. You can always use this water for your plants;
Use the kitchen faucet: Only use water from the cold kitchen faucet for beverages and food preparation;
Bottled water: If you decide to give bottled water to babies and young children or use it to prepare infant formula, check the label to make sure it contains less than 200 mg per liter of sodium (Na);
Try not to disturb or bump lead pipes as this can increase lead in your water;
Note that boiling the water does not remove the lead content;
If you have more than 40 meters (132 feet) of lead pipe, you need to run more than a bowlful of water and seriously consider replacing those pipes;
You can then use the water from the kitchen tap as usual.

If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, we can test a sample of your water. Contact us on 03457 440088 to arrange a test.

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