Water Quality SpecialistWater Quality Specialist

Collecting Drinking Water Samples for Lead Testing

If you want to test your drinking water for lead call (978-777-4442) or visit the lab to obtain water sample bottles or bottles can be mailed to you upon request.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission recommends collecting three water samples for lead testing. Collect the samples after at least six hours of not running water through the pipes. For this reason, water samples are often taken first thing in the morning. Take cold-water samples from the faucet you normally use for drinking or cooking. For the test results to be accurate, you must follow these instructions carefully when collecting your water sample.

  1. Before collecting the water, remove the aerator or strainer from the faucet.
  2. Being careful not to get the bottle dirty or allow it to come in contact with the faucet, remove the bottle cap and place the first bottle under the faucet.
  3. Turn on the cold water and fill the container to the top but do not allow the bottle to overflow. Cover tightly and mark the bottle as the “First Draw” and set aside.
  4. Run the water for two minutes. Collect the second sample the same way as the first (see steps two and three) and mark the bottle as “Second Draw.”
  5. Run the water for an additional three minutes then collect the third sample, following the same procedure, and marking it “Third Draw.”

Turn around time

Rate of turnaround time for your test is determined by the amount of turbidity in your water. Upon receipt of your water sample, as required in lead tests, your sample will be acidified, held for 16+ hours, and then tested for turbidity (a measure of cloudiness). A result of less than 1 NTU (turbidity units) indicates test results will be available five days from day of receipt. A result of greater than 1 NTU indicates testing may not proceed to MA DEP standards without performing a hot acid treatment (digestion). The digestion is done at no additional charge, however it requires more time, up to two additional days.

For more information:

Lead in Drinking Water

When Should You Test Your Drinking Water?

Bacteria in Drinking Water

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: Lead in drinking water

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Overview of Lead Poisoning

EPA Drinking Water Contaminants and Health