Incidence of waterborne lead in private drinking water systems in Virginia

J Water Health. 2015 Sep;13(3):897-908. doi: 10.2166/wh.2015.275.


Although recent studies suggest contamination by bacteria and nitrate in private drinking water systems is of increasing concern, data describing contaminants associated with the corrosion of onsite plumbing are scarce. This study reports on the analysis of 2,146 samples submitted by private system homeowners. Almost 20% of first draw samples submitted contained lead concentrations above the United States Environmental Protection Agency action level of 15 μg/L, suggesting that corrosion may be a significant public health problem. Correlations between lead, copper, and zinc suggested brass components as a likely lead source, and dug/bored wells had significantly higher lead concentrations as compared to drilled wells. A random subset of samples selected to quantify particulate lead indicated that, on average, 47% of lead in the first draws was in the particulate form, although the occurrence was highly variable. While flushing the tap reduced lead below 15 μg/L for most systems, some systems experienced an increase, perhaps attributable to particulate lead or lead-bearing components upstream of the faucet (e.g., valves, pumps). Results suggest that without including a focus on private as well as municipal systems it will be very difficult to meet the existing national public health goal to eliminate elevated blood lead levels in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Drinking Water / analysis*
  • Groundwater / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Virginia / epidemiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Quality / standards


  • Drinking Water
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lead