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Minimizing lead risk with a rainwater system

skidmorebay | Posted in General Questions on

I’m shopping for fittings and getting ready to begin installing our plumbing system. Although we are starting with a well, we hope to switch rainwater collection next year.
A friend had trouble with her rainwater system – the acidity of the rainwater was eating away at the copper plumbing in the house. The first sign of this was a hazy blue ring in the bathtub. She found that not only were lead levels high in her water, they were also high in her children! She addressed this by starting to maintain the pH levels in her cistern.

For this and other reasons, our house will be plumbed with PEX. I’ve been advised to use solid pipe for the plumbing on the pump and to the pressure tank, and then switch to PEX.
My question is, will we be safe using bronze at the pump, or galvanized if not? And, should I avoid metal PEX fittings?
I was advised against using PVC at the pump, because it could melt if the pump were to ever run dry and get hot.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    First of all, copper tubing is almost pure copper, and doesn't contain significant quantities of lead. If there is lead in the water supply, it is probably coming from old solder (pre-1980 or so), or from older bronze or brass faucets or valves (some of which contain lead).

    It's certainly possible to install copper tubing in a new house with lead-free solder (virtually all plumbing solder has been lead-free for decades) and with faucets and valves that are also lead-free.

  2. GBA Editor
  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    Justin: have you done tests on both your rainwater and well water? It might be useful to see what, if anything, you need to do(other than filtering out debris) to make the water safe to drink or taste good. Putting chemicals into the rainwater to raise the ph and remove any other undesirable components may reduce whatever perceived benefit one gets from rainwater.

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