How Water Plant Operators Can Reduce Lead Levels

By: Adam Stephenson

Water plant operators play an important role in ensuring clean, safe drinking water for their communities. In recent years, the issue of lead contamination in drinking water has become a growing concern for many communities.  

As water plant operators, it is important to understand what can be done to address the issue of lead in drinking water. In this blog, we’ll explore steps water plant operators can take to reduce the risk of lead contamination in drinking water.

Replacing Lead Lines 

One of the most effective methods for reducing lead contamination is to replace outdated lead service lines that connect homes to the water main. This is especially important in older communities where lead service lines are still in use.

Operational Controls  

Before replacing lead service lines, water plant operators can adjust the pH of the water to reduce lead corrosion. This can be done by increasing the alkalinity of the water, which reduces the solubility of lead. Additionally, the amount of orthophosphate should be monitored and adjusted to reduce lead corrosion. 

Corrosion control treatments can also be implemented to reduce lead concentrations. These treatments, such as increasing pH, alkalinity, and orthophosphate, can help reduce the amount of lead present in drinking water. 

In addition to corrosion control treatments, water plant operators can install lead filters on drinking water faucets. These filters reduce lead concentrations in drinking water and can provide additional protection for customers.

Testing and Monitoring  

The latest technology for lead detection, such as ion chromatography, X-ray fluorescence, and atomic absorption spectroscopy, should be employed by water plant operators to ensure the highest levels of accuracy when testing for lead. Plant operators must also be aware of the potential sources of lead contamination, such as aging lead pipes or fixtures, and take steps to reduce or eliminate them. 

Water plant operators should also regularly test drinking water in distribution systems for lead contamination. This testing should be done frequently to ensure that lead concentrations remain below acceptable levels. Additionally, water plant operators should optimize treatment and water chemistry processes to reduce lead concentrations. 

To ensure filtration systems remain effective, water supplies should be monitored regularly for lead levels and the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule should be followed for monitoring and treatment of lead.

Public Outreach 

Finally, water plant operators should educate their customers about lead contamination and how to reduce their exposure. This education should include information about the dangers of lead exposure and the steps that can be taken to reduce lead concentrations in drinking water. Records of the lead levels in the water supply should also be kept and shared with customers. Doing so will help to promote transparency and give customers a better understanding of the safety of their water.


Water plant operators have a responsibility to ensure that the water they provide to the public is safe and free of lead. While lead can be difficult to detect, there are several steps that operators can take to reduce lead levels in the water.  

These steps include testing the water and using corrosion control treatments to reduce the amount of lead in the water. Additionally, operators can take preventative measures by installing lead-free plumbing fixtures and encouraging proper disposal of lead-based materials. By taking these steps, water plant operators can help to ensure that the public has safe and healthy drinking water.