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Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ ensures measures are in place to protect public health from lead in Idaho’s drinking water

January 25, 2016

Recently, Flint, Michigan was declared a state of emergency due to high levels of lead in their drinking water. In 2014, Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron water provided by Detroit Water and Sewer District to the Flint River. Detroit treats Lake Huron water with orthophosphate which prevents aggressive/corrosive water from leaching metals from pipes, namely lead from lead service lines and internal home lead plumbing. Flint did not add a corrosion inhibitor to Flint River water, which caused lead to leach from lead service lines and older plumbing into the drinking water due to the river’s corrosive water properties. The Safe Drinking Water Act limit for lead in drinking water is 0.015 mg/L.

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can damage the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development.

When water is in contact with pipes or plumbing that contains lead for several hours, the lead may leach into drinking water. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have plumbing containing lead. New homes may also have lead; even “lead-free” plumbing may contain some lead.

Other sources of lead include lead paint, lead dust, and lead in soil.

DEQ is committed to ensuring measures are in place to protect public health. Staff reviewed past analytical results, new source information, and monitoring schedules to ensure testing and proper notifications were provided to water systems and the public served by those water systems. Lead monitoring schedules are in place and Idaho has had very few instances where additional sampling or measures needed to be taken for aggressive water. There are approximately 15 public water systems that do treat for corrosive water. 

For customers of community public water systems, your annual Consumer Confidence Reports sent to you by July 1 every year from your public water system will identify past lead results. For customers of non-community public water systems you may find your drinking water system’s monitoring results here:

For public drinking water system sampling result information, please visit:

For information on lead in drinking water, please visit:

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