Drinking Water Safety

Lead Awareness

Lead is not found in any of the North Shore's public water systems. However, lead can enter water as the result of the wearing away of materials containing lead in building fixtures, internal plumbing, or in the service line that brings water to your home. When water stands for several hours or more in fixtures or pipes that contain lead, the lead may leach into the water. It is also possible that physical disturbance of the pipes, as occurs during construction, may release lead into the water. 

The North Shore's public water systems are treated with ortho-phosphate to reduce the risk of lead leaching from plumbing materials into the water. This compound forms a protective coating inside pipes and is considered to be the best practice for the control of lead in drinking water. However, some homes are more at risk for lead in drinking water due to characteristics of the plumbing at the individual residence.


Which homes are most at risk of having lead in drinking water?

While lead is not found in treated water in the North Shore, lead may dissolve from the service line that brings water to your home or plumbing inside your home.  If your home has water from Milwaukee Water Works you can call the Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service line at (414) 286-2830 to find out if your home has a lead lateral. If you are unsure where your water comes from or do not receive water from Milwaukee Water Works please contact your village or city hall to find out how you can determine if you have a lead lateral or not.


Steps to Reduce the Risk of Lead in Your Drinking Water

There are several easy things you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important if you have children under the age of 6 (especially bottle fed infants), pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, or breastfeeding women in the home.

  1. Use a filter certified to remove lead from drinking water. This is especially important when preparing baby formula. Home filtration systems are the most thorough way to reduce or eliminate lead. Be sure to look for products certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53 for the removal of lead and follow all manufacturer’s instructions on installation and maintenance. Find recommendations about drinking water filters here.
  2. Run your water. Before using tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your plumbing by running the kitchen faucet (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on cold for a minimum of three minutes (or longer if necessary) until the water is noticeably colder. This is especially important if your water has been sitting in your pipes for more than six hours. Not running your water for the recommended length of time may increase your risk of lead exposure.

    To conserve water, you can use this excess for watering household plants or outdoor plants. Showering, doing laundry and flushing the toilet all help clear water from the pipes. Bathing, showering, and doing laundry in water from lead services lines or lead plumbing is safe.

  3. Drink and cook with water from the cold water tap. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve more lead quickly than cold water. Boiling water will not reduce the amount of lead in your drinking or cooking water. You can also consider purchasing bottled water from a known lead-free source for drinking and cooking.

    To conserve water, you may also want to consider filling a clean container(s) with water from the flushed tap, and reserving this water for drinking, cooking, or other consumption.

  4. Inspect your faucet aerator. The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that can catch debris, including particles of lead. It is recommended to periodically remove the aerator and rinse out any debris.
  5. Replace your lead service line or interior plumbing. A licensed plumber will be able to determine if your home’s interior plumbing and fixtures and/or service line are made of lead. Please get an estimate from a licensed plumber and contact your local village or city in case they would like to replace their side of the lead service line at the same time.

    In addition, if you are pregnant or have a child under the age of 6, talk to your doctor about lead testing. The North Shore Health Department advises parents and health care providers to follow Wisconsin's blood lead screening recommendations.


Additional Resources: