Drinking water meets federal lead standards
We are pleased to announce that the drinking water in our Northern New Jersey system meets all federal standards for lead – and has for a full year.
The nearly one million residents in communities served by SUEZ in Bergen and Hudson counties are receiving water that surpasses all health and safety standards.
This welcome news comes after a two-year, $65 million effort in which SUEZ tackled the issue on multiple fronts:
- Crews working six days a week swept through 47 municipalities — removing nearly 5,000 lead service lines.
- Water quality experts installed cutting-edge testing equipment and enhanced water treatment.
- Thousands of customers took advantage of our offer to test the water inside their homes for free.
Testing continues to show there is no lead in the water leaving the treatment plant and that treatment has significantly improved corrosion control in homes with lead service lines. The system is in full compliance with regulations, according to results certified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
We’re not done. SUEZ is committed to removing all of the lead service lines owned by the company. In fact, we’re spending $20 million in 2021 to remove thousands more lead lines. We’re continuing our rigorous testing and improvements to corrosion control treatment.
The most important thing we do is provide our customers and our communities with safe, reliable drinking water. We continue to strive to protect our water supply and improve our service for residents and businesses in New Jersey. Clean, safe water has never been more essential.
Steps we’re taking for you
Sweeping attack on lead service lines
With 25 crews working to remove lead service lines– some digging six days a week — SUEZ has swept through 47 municipalities in Bergen and Hudson counties since early 2019.
We’re nearing an important milestone: the removal of the 5,000th lead line.
We aren’t stopping there. We’re committed to removing all of the lead service lines owned by the utility.
What’s a service line? It’s the pipe that runs from the main in the street to an individual home or business. SUEZ owns the portion of the line from the main to the curb, while the section from the curb to the home is owned by the property owner.
Why lead? Lead is not present in the water leaving the treatment plant and there are no lead mains. But decades ago, lead was an industry standard for smaller-diameter individual service lines or indoor plumbing because it was strong, yet malleable enough to bend. SUEZ has been removing these lines for years and today, fewer than 10 percent of customers are served by a utility-owned lead line or gooseneck. We’re not slowing down until we get these out of the system.
SUEZ removes thousands of lead service lines a year. Here’s how we do it:
Focus on water quality
SUEZ intensified its lead program in early 2019, when testing showed lead above the standard in 16 homes out of more than 100 that were tested. The company formed a team of water quality specialists, bringing in the nation’s leading experts to study the unique characteristics of the system’s water chemistry, hydraulics and size.
Pipes were pulled out of the ground and shipped across the country for analysis. Innovative testing equipment was built and stationed throughout the system. The work led to significant advancements in corrosion control treatment using zinc orthophosphate, which essentially coats pipes to prevent lead particles from entering the water.
Lab results have shown steady improvement in homes with lead service lines or lead plumbing. In December 2018, the lead level was 18.4 parts per billion (ppb), above the federal standard of 15 ppb. The level for the first half of 2020 was 9.1 ppb, well below even the more the stringent standards proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Compliance testing in the second half of 2020 shows continued declines in lead levels.
Testing also continues to show there is no lead in the water at the treatment plant.
In addition to these compliance tests, SUEZ offers free testing to customers in homes served by utility-owned lead lines or goosenecks. Of the more than 2,900 homes tested since 2019, 99 percent have met lead standards. In fact, the vast majority showed no trace of lead.
SUEZ continues to enhance its treatment and as part of its rigorous analysis of water quality –our lab in Haworth processes more than 67,700 tests annually. We value the trust our customers place in our hands and we take that responsibility very seriously
Steps you can take
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STEPS THAT YOU CAN TAKE
We are taking every action to remove lead and control corrosion, but homeowners should take a closer look inside their homes and act now. Lead plumbing, lead solder, faucets that contain lead, even grounding electric wires to lead pipes can cause elevated lead levels in the water.
We recommend that you check your service line – you’re responsible for the pipe from the property line to your home or business – and replace the line if it contains lead. Visit mysuezwater.com/NJWQ or call our customer service representatives at 1-800-422-5987 to find out if you may be served by a lead service line.
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We want to help
We want to help in any way we can
That is why we are providing water quality testing to any customer served by a utility-owned lead service line.
Our customer service representatives are available to answer any questions or concerns about lead – or other topics related to your water service. Call 1-800-422-5987 or by email us at email@example.com.
Our New Jersey customers can also visit www.mysuezwater.com/NJWQ to find out if they may be served by a lead service line.
We believe that our partners in government can also take material actions to help limit lead exposure.
- At the local level, for example, if we were informed whenever in-the-ground, roadwork was conducted in our service territory, we would be better able to coordinate our lead service line replacement with towns.
- At the state level, we encourage the expansion of existing infrastructure programs or a program that would provide low-cost loans for customers so they can replace their portion of the service line.
- At the federal level, we believe the EPA should require homeowners to certify whether or not they have lead plumbing in their homes at the time of sale. We already have legislation for lead in paint. We need this for water.
If you are concerned about lead exposure, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recommends contacting your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get tested for lead. Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead.
Never use water from the hot water tap to prepare formula. Boiling water does not remove lead. To err on the side of caution, if you have a lead line serving your home, a lead gooseneck, or lead pipes or fixtures in your house you may want to take precautions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggests that long-term exposure to lead in water is a concern for infants, young children and pregnant women. Lead can cause serious health issues because it can lead to neurological and kidney damage and interfere with the body’s production of red blood cells. Risk will vary, however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. For more information, consult a health professional.
All daycare centers and public and private schools in the state of New Jersey are governed by educational laws. If you have concerns, you should contact that facility.
Yes. As per the Centers for Disease Control, bathing and showering should be safe for you and your children, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.
The primary source of lead in drinking water is from service lines made of lead, lead goosenecks, and from lead fixtures in homes. Service lines are pipes that extend from water mains to individual residences or businesses. Water quality professionals rigorously test the safety of water distributed from SUEZ treatment plants in Northern New Jersey and continue to find NO detectable levels of lead.
Other indoor plumbing pipes and fixtures may contain lead that could enter your drinking water, including lead solder that connects pipes in your home as well as brass faucets. Homes or buildings built prior to 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. Lead service lines are typically only present in older homes, but older brass faucets with lead content can be found in newer homes.
SUEZ owns the portion of the service line that runs from our water main to your property line. You own the remaining portion that extends from your property line into your home or business.
To find out if the SUEZ portion of the service pipe has lead, customers can check their online account, visit www.SUEZWQ.com or www.mysuezwater.com/njwq, or call or email our customer service center at 1-800-422-5987 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Our customer service representatives are available to answer questions, including those about lead lines and testing.
Customers still need to determine the material used in their portion of the line. To determine if your home’s service line is made of lead, you (or your plumber) need to inspect the line. Lead service lines are generally a dull gray color and are very soft. You can identify them easily by carefully scratching with a flat-tipped screwdriver. If the pipe is made of lead, the scratched area will turn a bright silver color. Do not use a knife or other sharp instrument and take care not to puncture a hole in the pipe. A video that demonstrates how to conduct a scratch test can be found here. A qualified plumber can also determine if your home contains lead-based plumbing fixtures.
It is recommended that customers who have lead service lines on their properties hire a licensed contractor to replace the line. If you determine you have a lead line and/or you have replaced your line or plan to, please contact our customer service representatives at 1-800-422-5987 so we can update our records. If our side of the line is also made of lead, we would like to coordinate our replacement work with yours.
If replacing pipes and household plumbing is not an option, many water filters are effective in removing lead. Be sure to check the label or contact the manufacturer to confirm the water filter is NSF-certified for lead removal.
Before using any tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your water system by running the kitchen tap (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on COLD. Never use hot water from the faucet for drinking or cooking, especially when making baby formula or food for infants.
Steps customers can take:
- Test water inside the home for lead. SUEZ will provide free tests to residents on our list of known or suspected lead lines. The NJDEP maintains a list of certified laboratories. To access this list, please visit https://www13.state.nj.us/DataMiner. Once there, click Search by Category then select Certified Laboratories from the Report Category drop down box. Then click on the Submit button and under Certified Laboratories choose Drinking Water Certified Lead Labs.
- Run the water and flush out lead. Let the water run from the tap before using it for drinking or cooking any time the water in the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. The longer the water resides in plumbing the more lead it contains. Flushing the tap means running the cold water faucet for about 15 to 30 seconds. Although toilet flushing or showering flushes water through a portion of the plumbing system, you still need to flush the water in each faucet before using it for drinking or cooking. is a simple and inexpensive measure you can take to protect your health. It usually uses less than one gallon of water. For those with lead service lines or until you determine if you are served by one, let the water run from the tap based on the length of the lead service line and the plumbing configuration in your home.
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water. If you need hot water, draw the water from the cold tap and then heat it. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
- Remove and clean aerators/screens on plumbing fixtures. Over time, particles and sediment can collect in the aerator screen usually found at the tip of indoor faucets. Regularly remove and clean aerators screens and remove any particles.
- Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter if there is lead in your home. Be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 1-800-NSF-8010 or nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Proper and routine maintenance of water softeners. It is very important that residents manage their water softeners appropriately. Not properly maintaining your water softener could have a negative impact on the corrosivity of the water in your home.
- Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get tested for lead if you are concerned about lead exposure. Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead.
Here are nine steps to protect your family from lead exposure:
- Test your home for lead paint. In the United States, lead is in paint in 87% of homes built before 1940, 69% of homes built from 1940–1959, and 24% of homes built from 1960–1977. Homes in the Northeast and Midwest are most likely to have lead in paint. Ask the landlord about lead before you sign a lease. Before you buy a home, have it inspected for lead.
- Before any work is done on your home, learn about safe ways to make repairs. When repairs are being done, seal off the area until the job is done and keep your child away until everything is cleaned up. Be sure to use a certified contractor. Removing lead paint on your own can often make the condition worse. If work is not done the safe way, you and your child can be harmed by increased exposure to lead in dust.
- Keep your children away from old windows, old porches, and areas with chipping or peeling paint. If it is in your home, cover it with duct tape or contact paper until it can be completely removed. If you rent your home, let your landlord know about any peeling or chipping paint. Landlords are legally obligated to remediate lead problems found on their property.
- If you are in an older home, do not allow your child to play in the dirt next to the home. Plant grass over bare soil or use mulch or wood chips.
- Wipe surfaces regularly. Wipe down floors and other level surfaces with a damp mop or sponge. Taking shoes off at the door can help reduce tracking in dirt.
- Teach your children to wash their hands, especially before eating. Wash pacifiers and toys regularly.
- Keep clean. If your work or hobbies involve lead, change your clothes and shoes and shower when finished. Keep your clothes at work or wash your work clothes as soon as possible.
- Use cold flushed tap water for mixing formula, drinking, or cooking. If you are in an older home, run the water for several minutes before using it in the morning and start with cold water for drinking or cooking.
- Eat healthy. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead. Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods that are high in calcium and iron and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on fruit juice.
These 5 questions will help you determine if your family is at risk for lead poisoning.
- Was your home built before 1978? A majority of homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint, which can have a dangerous effect on the health of young children (under the age of six) and pregnant women.
- Do you see walls, furniture, or window sills in your home with chipping or peeling paint? Lead-based paint is unsafe if it peels, chips, or cracks. Harmful lead dust is created when windows, doors, edges of stairs, rails, or other lead-based painted surfaces wear away over time. You or your landlord can get your home checked for lead by hiring a trained, certified professional. Many young children put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths, which can cause serious damage to their health. Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
- Do your children play in the soil near your older home? Soil around homes with lead-based paint may have lead chips, dust, or flakes in it. Children can accidentally swallow this soil while playing outdoors, or the soil may be tracked indoors from shoes onto carpet and floors where children can eventually come into contact with it. Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes, as well as to wash their hands, after playing outdoors.
- Do you store food in imported pottery that contains lead? Imported pottery and dishware usually contain lead. To protect your family from lead poisoning, use imported pottery only for decoration, and keep food and drinks in other safe, storage containers.
- Do you work with lead in your job? You may be exposed to lead on the job if you work as a painter, ironworker, construction worker, cable splicer, automobile radiator repair mechanic, firearms instructor, metal shop worker, stained glass artist, or battery maker. If you work in a lead-related industry, change your work clothes before entering the home, wash your work clothes separately from the clothes you wear around your family, and remove your shoes before entering your home, as lead can be tracked indoors onto carpets, floors, and furniture.
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, have your home tested by a certified professional. If you rent, find out if your landlord has checked your home for lead.