Illustration of tap

Water that leaves Hartlepool Water treatment works and flows through our water mains network is effectively lead-free. If traces of lead are found in tap water, it usually comes from old lead pipework in, or near the home. The longer water is left to stand in these pipes, the more likely it is that traces of lead will be found.

Lead and your health

Awareness of the levels of lead in the environment has increased during recent years, for example lead is no longer used in the production of petrol or paints.

Medical advice suggests that lead may be harmful. Therefore, it is sensible to ensure that as little lead as possible is consumed. This is especially important for pregnant women and young children.



Do I have lead pipework?

Lead has been used as a plumbing material since Roman times. If you live in a house built before 1970, you may wish to check whether your pipework is lead. Properties built or modified after 1970 are unlikely to have lead pipes- copper or plastics are now the most commonly used materials.

How do I check my pipework?

Look for the point where the water pipe enters the house and check as much of the pipe as possible. The pipe usually enters at the internal stop tap - which is often under the kitchen sink. Lead pipes are usually dark grey or black (unless painted) and the joints appear to be 'swollen'. The metal is soft with a dull coating and when scraped gently with a coin, a shiny silver strip should be revealed.

If your home has been replumbed, it is still worth checking the pipe running from the water main outside your property to the stop tap inside your home. You should first scrape a short section of the pipe under your sink but if you are still unable to tell, you can scrape the pipe either side of your outside stop tap.

As a guide, other pipe materials have the following appearances:

  • Copper – bright or dull orange colour, and hard
  • Iron – dark, very hard and may be rusty
  • Plastic – may be grey, black or blue

How likely is my tap water to dissolve lead?

Water in the Hartlepool Water region is generally hard and is less likely to allow lead from pipework to dissolve into the water. However, where tests show an increased likelihood, we have introduced processes at our treatment works.

We perform more than 300,000 tests on water quality every year. If you have lead pipes and you would like to arrange a free lead test to measure the lead content in your tap water please contact us.

I have lead pipes, what can I do to reduce the lead levels?

If lead pipes are causing high lead levels in your tap water you can take some simple precautions:

  • Only use water from the cold kitchen tap for drinking and cooking purposes because hot water dissolves more lead than cold water
  • Do not drink or cook with water that has stood for a long time in the pipes such as water that has been standing overnight, or for several hours during the day.
  • If the water has been stood I the pipes for some time, run the cold tap to flush the water out, for a typical property, where the street is no more than 40 metres from the tap, just running enough to fill a washing bowl should be sufficient. (You can collect this water for watering houseplants or for use in the garden.)

Who owns the pipes?

Pipes under the road or pavements up to the boundary of your property are the responsibility of Hartlepool Water. In most cases the pipes are not lead. The pipe from the property boundary to the internal plumbing is the responsibility of the property owner.

Grants may be available for renovation and minor works for households with low incomes. Information about this should be obtained from your local authority.

Grants may be available for renovation and minor works for households with low income. Information about this should be obtained from your local authority.

How do I opt to replace the lead pipework?

If you opt to replace the lead pipework on the property, Hartlepool Water will replace the pipework between the water main and the property boundary. In some cases, if this is a like for like replacement, the same size pipework and the same connection point, this will be done free of charge, in other cases charges may be applicable.

If you are still unsure about what lead pipes are like, would like further information about lead in the water supply or would like to apply for lead pipework replacement, please contact us and we will be happy to help you. 

Your Environmental Health Officer can also give advice.



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