How to Identify Lead Pipes

Step 1: find your emergency water shut-off valve

Once you find your emergency water shut-off valve or water meter in your home (usually in the basement), check the colour and hardness of the pipe.

Step 2: check the pipe colour

Check the colour of the pipe coming out of the ground and into the meter. You may have to lightly sand the surface of the pipe. If the pipe is:

  • The colour of a Canadian penny: It's copper.
  • Bright blue or black: It's likely plastic tubing (polyethylene). Important: Don't attempt to test the hardness of your pipe if you suspect it's plastic.
  • Grey: It's galvanized iron or lead.

Step 3: check the pipe hardness

If you think your water service line could be lead, try gently etching into the pipe (see video). Lead is a relatively soft metal and scratches easily. Do not attempt this if you think the line could be plastic.

While this checklist is a good indicator of whether your pipes are lead, please note that every pipe is a little different. The only way to be sure if you have lead is to have your water tested. If you believe you have a lead service line, contact Lacombe County’s Utilities Department at 403-782-8959.


How can I limit my exposure to lead?

If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, take the following preventive steps to limit possible exposure further:

  • Flush standing water in pipes each morning by first flushing the toilet, washing your hands or letting the water run for five minutes or until it is cold to the touch. Flushing clears water from the plumbing and home service line to ensure the drinking water comes from the main service line.

  • Use cold water for drinking and cooking. Hot water dissolves more lead from plumbing. Boiling water DOES NOT remove lead.
  • Some home water treatment devices remove lead, but not all do. Before buying, check the various models and their specifications.