Results from testing for lead in September 2011

[Contact information and water qualit report link below updated in February 2016]

Recent testing for lead in water from 30 homes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro shows that OWASA’s tap water continues to surpass Federal and State standards.

In each of 30 water samples analyzed from July through August, lead testing results were below the detectable level of 3 parts per billion. One part per billion corresponds to 1 penny in $10 million.

Under Federal and State requirements, OWASA tests every three years for lead in tap water from homes built from 1983 to 1985. The limits on lead in pipes, solder and fixtures were substantially tightened in 1986.

“We tested the tap water from 30 homes in our service area for lead in accord with Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and State requirements, and all of the test results for 2011 were below the detectable level,” said Rachel Monschein, Laboratory Supervisor at OWASA’s Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant.

An independent, outside laboratory approved by the State analyzed OWASA’s water samples for lead.

OWASA customers who wish to have the tap water in their homes or businesses tested for lead are invited to call the OWASA Laboratory staff at 919-537-4228 or send an e-mail to

Background information

Health effects of high levels of lead

Infants and children who drink water with high levels of lead (more than 15 parts per billion) could have delays in their physical or mental development.  Children could show deficits in attention span and learning abilities.  Adults who drink water with excessive lead over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.

Water and old plumbing systems

In communities with old water systems, lead contamination in water may result from lead being released from lead fittings or pipes in the public water distribution system. In the OWASA water system, however, all known lead fittings and pipes have been removed.

Lead can also be released or “leached” into tap water in private plumbing systems with lead pipes, solder and fixtures. However, OWASA’s drinking water includes anti-corrosion additive (polyphosphate) which creates a coating on the inside of pipes and fixtures. This coating is intended to prevent the release of lead inside plumbing systems.

Annual Water Quality Report Cards

Each spring, OWASA publishes a Water Quality Report Card regarding water testing, treatment, quality and characteristics, the reservoirs that supply water for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community and related matters.

OWASA’s Water Quality Report Card for 2010 was mailed to OWASA customers in June 2011 and it is available on the OWASA website,, under What We Do. Please click here to read the report (2014 edition).

National award for Excellence in Water Treatment

In May, 2011, OWASA became the ninth utility in the U.S. and the first in N.C. to receive the Partnership for Safe Water’s award for Excellence in Water Treatment. The partnership is a national organization including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and utilities that encourages and recognizes water utilities for surpassing the national standards for drinking water quality.

For more information

Ken Loflin, Water Supply and Treatment Manager, 537-4232 or