Straight from the Tap

How Orthophosphate helps keep your drinking water safe from lead


Cleveland Water takes multiple steps to make sure the water you drink is safe from a variety of potential contaminants, including lead.

Our use of orthophosphate in our treatment process has substantially reduced - by about 90% - the levels of lead found in our customer's drinking water over the past 20 years; however, there are still some people's homes and businesses in Greater Cleveland that contain lead pipes, plumbing and service connections.

We are just as concerned about lead as you are because we drink the water you drink. To help limit pipe corrosion and keep lead and copper out of our water, Cleveland Water adds orthophosphate in the treatment process. Orthophosphate works by adding a protective coating layer to the inside of pipes and plumbing. This helps protect you and your family if the pipes and plumbing in your home, school, office or place of worship are made from lead or lead-containing materials.

Our test results indicate orthophosphate is very successful at reducing lead and copper from leaching into the water. Even in houses that have lead plumbing, sample results are very low (zero or below detection levels). The amount of orthophosphate added to water for your protection is very small – about 1 mg to 1.5 mg per liter. By comparison, one can of pop (or soda if you’re not from around here) contains up to 1,000 times that amount.

Where is lead at?

Potential sources of lead in treated drinking water come from a few areas:

  1. Service lines that run from the water mains in the street into your home. The Greater Cleveland area, like many parts of the United States prior to the early 1950s, commonly used lead for service lines.
  2. In-home plumping, including copper plumbing with lead solder installed before 1986 and brass fittings and fixtures installed before 2014. 

Below is a video that helps better explain what orthophosphate is and how it is used in the treatment process:



Additional information on lead can be found here.