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Lead and Copper for residents and private property owners

Lead & Copper in Private Water Supplies
Although the State of Vermont does not regulate the water quality of private water supplies (wells, springs, etc.) it has an interest in assisting all Vermonters to ensure that their drinking water is safe to drink. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead or copper in drinking water. Therefore, the only way to know if lead and copper levels in your drinking water are below Federally-established action levels is to have it tested. To have drinking water tested for lead and for copper costs anywhere from $20 to $25. A listing of laboratories certified for drinking water analysis by the Vermont Department of Health is available by following the link below to the Vermont Department of Health Website.

NOTE: In the Department’s table, lead and copper testing is subsumed within a category called Inorganic Chemistry (IOC)


Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG): It is a Federal and State goal to supply water with no lead and with no more than 1.3 milligrams of copper per liter (mg/L) of water. These are non-enforceable health goals.

Action Levels: For public water systems, when the concentration of lead or copper reaches the Action Level in 10 percent or more of the required samples, the water system is required to carry out the water treatment requirements of the Lead & Copper Rule.
The values in the table below should offer good rules of thumb for you when trying to make sense of the lab reports you receive with lead and copper sampling results.

  MCLG (mg/L) Action Level (mg/L)
Lead 0 >  0.015
Copper 1.3 > 1.3

You should be particularly suspicious about lead in your drinking water if your home has lead pipes and you see signs of corrosion such as frequent leaks, rust-colored water, or stained dishes or laundry.

There are no requirements for the testing of private residential wells. However, to ensure that drinking water is safe, the Vermont Department of Health recommends the following testing schedule:

  • Total coliform bacterial test: every year
  • Inorganic chemical test: every five years
  • Gross alpha radiation screening test: every five years
Inorganic Chemical Testing (including lead and copper)

This test is recommended every five years. The Vermont Department of Health offers a screening test "Kit C" for wells that includes arsenic, chloride, copper, fluoride, hardness, iron, lead, manganese, nitrate, sodium and uranium.

Sampling instructions are included with each sampling kit.
These inorganic chemicals can create nuisance problems, or in some cases, health symptoms. When you receive test results they will be compared with maximum levels.

For More Information about Children and Lead Call the Vermont Lead Poisoning Prevention & Surveillance Program

1-800-439-8550 (toll-free within Vermont)
Reducing Your Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

Treatment Options for Lead & Copper in Drinking Water
If lab results indicate that either lead or copper is present in drinking water at levels causing concern, the first course of action is to identify the source. A plumber can help you determine if lead or copper pipes are present and the feasibility of replacing these. Where possible and cost-effective, eliminate the source of lead and copper in drinking water by replacing lead and copper plumbing components with approved plastic options.

Treating drinking water corrosivity is an option that requires a technician familiar with such systems. A point-of-entry system provides whole house-treatment depending on the particular water chemistry of your drinking water you can consider, for example, a calcite treatment system for pH adjustment.

There are many filtering devices certified for effective lead or copper reduction, but devices that are not designed to remove lead or copper won’t offer much reduction of lead and copper health risks. Filtration systems use various types of filtering media such as carbon, ion exchange, resins, activated alumina, and other materials. Unless such filtering devices have been certified to remove lead or copper by the National Sanitation Foundation International or the Water Quality Association, their effectiveness should not be assumed.

Flushing your tap water for at least fifteen (15) seconds first thing in the morning before drinking or using it is an effective way to reduce exposure to lead and copper in drinking water. Water flushed from the tap can be used for watering plants, washing dishes, or cleaning. Avoid cooking with or drinking water from hot water taps because hot water dissolves lead and copper more readily than cold water does.

Lead Public Education Resources

Lead & Copper in Drinking Water: Resources for Schools and Daycare Centers


drinkingwater.vermont.gov   groundwater.vermont.gov   septic.vermont.gov wastewater.vermont.gov
VT DEC Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division 1 National Life Drive, Main Building, 2nd Floor  Montpelier, VT  05620-3521
Telephone 802-828-1535    Fax: 802-828-1541

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