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KDKA Investigates: How To Find Out If There's Lead In Your Drinking Water

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Is there lead in your drinking water? Given the crisis in the Flint, Michigan, it's a question many of us would like to have answered.

If you're a customer of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, they will test your water for free upon request and send you a sample bottle with simple instructions.

"They would turn the cold water tap directly into the bottle. Fill the bottle all the way to the top, and once that's done, cap it, place it in the refrigerator, give us a call here at the lab and we'll schedule that pickup," says Gina Cyprych, of the PWSA.

The PWSA recently tested 186 homes, and the results run the spectrum, but are mostly good.

A total of 103 homes had non-detectible levels of lead and some had had very low levels, but others were more concerning.

They say 26 had between 5 and 9.9 parts per billion, 15 between 10 and 14 parts per billion, and 12 or about 6-and-a-half percent of those tested were above 15 parts per billion, meaning they exceeded the safe drinking water standards set by the federal government.

Acting PWSA Director David Donohoe says the test show that while water leaving the treatment plant is lead-free; it can pick up lead from the plumbing in older homes.

If so, he says, the homeowner should probably take some action.

"That would be an individual decision, but I think if I had received that kind of a reading, I probably would want to examine filters and further examine why I might have that problem in my home," said Donohoe.

If you have a high reading, it's possible that you have a lead service line running from the street into your home or lead solder around you pipes. You can find out with a swab test.

"If the swab turns pink, that means lead has been detected here," said Donohoe.

The expensive way to deal with the problem would be replacing the lead service line and the soldered joints. The less expensive option is a water filter, either one attached to your primary faucet or near the water meter that would filter the water for the entire house.

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"Any amount of lead found in your drinking water is undesirable," said Keith Rickabaugh, of RJ Lee Group.

Call it a sign of the times, but the PWSA is getting inundated with requests for lead testing, and so are private companies like RJ Lee, which is testing the water from businesses, schools and homes.

"We put together just an easy-to-use kit for a homeowner to get their samples," said Rickabaugh.

If you live outside the city, RJ Lee and other companies are offering to test your water for between $50 and $100, which may be the price to pay for peace of mind.

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