Lead and Copper

In December 2020, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first major update to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in nearly 30 years. EPA’s new rule strengthens every aspect of the LCR to better protect children and communities from the risks of lead exposure and provide increased access to information.

For the latest results of water testing in Stafford County, view the Water Quality Report.

If you are concerned about your water quality, read more about how to have your home's water tested

Stafford County Utilities has compiled these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help explain what the new federal requirements mean for our customers.

Lead and Copper FAQs
What is the purpose of the Lead and Copper Revised Rule?
The revised rule is intended to minimize the risks of lead exposure in children and communities by better protecting children at schools and childcare facilities, safeguarding the nation’s drinking water and empowering communities through information.
How is this rule different from the original Lead and Copper Rule?
The original Lead and Copper Rule set requirements for the frequency of lead and copper testing, volume requirements for water sampling, action and trigger levels for lead and copper, and necessary steps if those levels were met or exceeded.

The revised rule requires an inventory of all pipe materials from public water mains to privately owned structures, changes the volume of water required for a sample, enhances testing at schools and day care facilities, establishes public outreach requirements and defines lead service lines and replacement requirements.
What are the requirements for the service line inventory?

Stafford County Utilities is inventorying service lines on both the Stafford side of the water meter and the property owner’s side of the meter. Stafford County Utilities must submit the results to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The test results must classify all service lines in one of the following categories:

  • Lead – where the service line is made of lead
  • Non-Lead – where evidence indicates the service line is not made of lead
  • Galvanized Requiring Replacement – where a galvanized service line is downstream of a current or former lead service line; or
  • Lead Status Unknown – where there is no documentation or evidence to classify the material type
Has Stafford County tested for lead before the revised rule?

Yes. The original Lead and Copper Rule required testing in the Stafford County Utilities distribution system as well as established action levels for both lead and copper when the rule was first published in 1991. The most recent Lead and Copper sampling was conducted in 2021, and all samples were under the action limit.

What are next steps?

Stafford County Utilities is working on a service line inventory that will be submitted in 2024. Once the inventory is completed, it will be sent to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Once VDH approves the line inventory, Stafford County Utilities will identify additional lead and copper sampling locations. Stafford County Utilities will continue to sample all of the elementary schools and child care facilities in our service area beginning in 2025.

How does lead get into drinking water?
Stafford County’s drinking water sources, including Lake Mooney (Rappahannock River) and Smith Lake, do not contain any lead. Sometimes, household plumbing can be a source of lead in drinking water. In 1986, lead was banned from use in pipes and solder for drinking water systems. In older homes, where lead is present in the service lines, plumbing fixtures and solder connections, it may leach into the water after the water sits for long periods of time.
What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for lead in drinking water?
For the current up-to-date federal regulations, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website. 
What are the health effects of too much lead?
If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. For infants and children, exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical or mental development. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive a greater percentage because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size. For adults, exposure to high levels of lead can result in kidney problems or high blood pressure. Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, the EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from drinking water.
What is Stafford County Utilities doing to minimize lead exposure from my plumbing system?
A phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor is added to water, and the pH is adjusted to help prevent lead from leaching into drinking water from household plumbing.
What can I do in my home to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water?
  • Any time the water has been sitting unused for six hours or longer, flush your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes a constant temperature. Saving the water for other purposes, such as plant watering, is a good conservation measure.
  • Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula. Hot water may contain higher levels of lead.
  • Some people choose to install a water filter in their home. If you choose to do so, follow these three important suggestions:
    1. Choose one designed for the specific filtration desired, such as lead.
    2. Make sure the filter is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org).
    3. Maintain the filter as directed by the manufacturer.
Where can I find more information about lead in drinking water?

Information about lead and copper is available on the Virginia Department of Health website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/drinking-water/lcrr-guidance/

For the Lead and Copper federal regulations, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.