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I live in a house that was built in the 1930's. I'm paranoid that the old pipes for hot and cold water(for the kitchen, shower, etc..) are contaminating the water. Is this something I should be worried about? What is the best way to test the water that flows through the pipes in my house?

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If it worries you that much, have it tested. Is anybody in the house constantly sick, does the water taste funny? –  Tester101 Oct 13 '11 at 1:57
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Are you on a city supply, or well/intake? Is there anything you're particularly concerned about? Do you have a lead service pipe, or lead pipes in your house? Do you have a cistern that's connected to your water supply? –  gregmac Oct 13 '11 at 4:27
    
Ryan, if you answer the questions gregmac poses, I can give you some specific recommendations. –  shirlock homes Oct 13 '11 at 8:46
    
@shirlockhomes that's kinda what I'm asking. Should I even be worried about this? Is it possible for 80 year old plumbing to contaminate our water? How do I determine if I have lead pipes? What's a cistern? –  Ryan Oct 13 '11 at 20:38
    
@shirlockhomes I have some more info. The pipes going into my water meter have "FIG 1018" written on them. They also have "walworth" on them. But they are painted white so I can't tell you what they are made of. Also, I can see a lot of piping under my home and almost all of it appears to be around 1/2" inch copper piping. There did appear to be a small grey pipe connected to all the copper. So maybe all the lead piping was replaced with copper more recently? Does any of this help you? –  Ryan Oct 13 '11 at 21:13
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3 Answers

Your locality should test water in the area on a regular basis, but this is via sampling, so problems specific to your home will be missed.

You can almost certainly send a sample off to a lab and have it tested, and the EPA may point you towards someone that will perform various tests, particularly for lead. But since we're all about DIY, the easy solution is to pickup your own test kit which will help identify problems in your own plumbing. You can find these on amazon (search on "drinking water test kit" if the link stops working), and if you're lucky, the local HI store may even stock these.

Note: I've never used one of these kits before, so I can't personally vouch for their reliability. However, I have sent samples of water to my municipality in the past (I didn't receive an individual report back from this). For best results, you need to sample the first water that comes out of your tap after sitting overnight.

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Water testing (from what I've seen) is cheap and easy enough that it's worthwhile to do if you are worried at all. If you're in the US, check with your local Department of Natural Resources to find out where to get a sample kit. Where I live, it's $10 for a container and testing from my State Health Lab.

Typically, you'll need to sterilize a faucet before you take a sample (either using a torch or flushing it with bleach) and you'll need to drop it off for testing fairly quickly (24-48 hours). This is third-hand from my home inspector (and I'm sure different labs have their own requirements for prepping and collecting the sample) so definitely read the directions you get with your kit. I recently purchased an older home with a well and I'll be doing a test myself this week so I'll be able to follow up with actual experience soon :)

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In some areas, you can even get a free water test. Here in Toronto, we got a free water test and our lead levels were higher than I'd like, although still within the range of acceptable.

Seems like finding out how much it would cost you to get a water test, and then getting one done if it's not too expensive is a reasonable step to take, particularly if it'll give you some peace of mind.

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