WSS requests public support in identifying water line materials

May 13, 2024

WSS requests public support in identifying water line materials

The City of Johnson City Water and Sewer Services Department is committed to preserving the quality of our community’s drinking water.

The Department is responding to the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation requiring that all United States drinking water utility providers complete an inventory of service line materials by Oct. 16, 2024.

Unlike many large metropolitan areas, Johnson City does not have a history of lead material usage in the water distribution system. Although lead was not commonly used in our system, we still must complete the service line inventory for both public and privately owned water service lines to comply with the new federal regulations.

In a traditional setting, a service line refers to the section of pipe that runs from the main water line to the water meter and then to your property’s dwelling or structure. Johnson City typically owns and is responsible for maintaining most water lines that run up to the meter. The water service line that leaves the meter and enters private property is most often the responsibility of the property owner. The EPA-required inventory must include both the utility side and property owner side of the water service line for each connection in the system regardless of ownership.

The lead ban under the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act mandated the use of lead-free pipe when installing or repairing any public water system or private plumbing in residential or non-residential facilities that supply potable water for human consumption. As a result, plastic and copper water line pipes are common plumbing materials used in homes built after 1986. In older homes and neighborhoods built prior to 1986, lead and galvanized may have been used as a plumbing material. Johnson City banned lead pipes in the early 1970s for new construction and renovations within city limits.

“In my more than 40 years with the department, we have conducted maintenance and replacement of pipes across the City with no lead water service lines discovered,” said Water and Sewer Services Director Tom Witherspoon. “While this is positive for our community, it is important to know that lead pipes could be used in plumbing throughout the country and in Tennessee up until the federal lead ban. Because we prioritize your health and the EPA identified lead pipes as a concern to your health, knowing the type of water service line you have is considered essential for your well-being and safety.”

To promptly establish a comprehensive and accurate inventory of water service lines, the Water and Sewer Services Department relies on residential and commercial property owner participation and cooperation. Determining the material of your service line is quick and simple.

The first step is to identify the location of your water service line. The water service line entering your residence or commercial property is commonly located in the basement, main floor, or crawlspace. This pipe may emerge from the floor or it might extend from a side wall. The section of pipe to test is near the entry point. If your pipes are metal, follow these steps to test for lead.

  1. Scratch the surface of the pipe between the entry point and shutoff valve with a coin or screwdriver. Observe the color and appearance. Lead pipes will be gray and shiny.
  2. Place a magnet on the service line. Magnets will not stick to lead.
  3. To listen for lead service lines, tap the pipe. Lead will sound dull.
  4. Lead pipes may be curved or bent often accompanied by a bulbous shape at the connection point to other material.

Once you determine your service line material, you are asked to take a brief survey to help the City meet the EPA’s requirement. Visit for more details and example photos and for a link to the survey.

The City will also be performing verification of water service line materials at selected addresses throughout the system. These locations were selected to achieve a random sampling for a statistical analysis. You may see City of Johnson City crews in your neighborhood completing this work. Crews will make efforts to limit the amount of disturbance and attempt to clean and restore these sites on the same day.

For questions or concerns, email or call 423.434.5849.