Lead water pipes

Two years ago the estate agents who run the syndic for our building said that the lead piping bringing water into our building would have to be replaced with copper or plastic by 2017. At this year's annual meeting in April, they said that the dateline had already passed. So a plumber was engaged and we now have a new copper water main running up the stair-well from the communal entrance to our caves to serve the two shops on the ground floor, and the five flats on the three floors above. The cost will be shared between all seven members of the syndic. We've been told that if we have any lead pipes on our own premises it is our own responsibility to have them replaced and connected to the new water main at our own expense. Our flat does have a bit of lead piping (as well as iron, copper and plastic!). I'm not sure if this replacement of lead pipes is a local law dreamt up by our local authority (Montpellier), or one put in place by our departement or region, or is a state law for the whole of France. Does anyone happen to know?

Thank you.

The section of lead pipe is before our water meter and a good way before our water softener. In any case, the softener is plumbed in and I cannot bypass it. But thanks for the thought.

Stop using the water softener until you have changed the pipes. Soft water is acid and dissolves lead more readily than hard water.

Good points! In fact we drink both tap water (we have a water softener, which of course makes the water less healthy than Montpellier's normally extremely 'hard' water), and a number of different bottled waters either because we like them or for health reasons.

Might be cheaper to drink bottled water! But lead has a scrap value and that should be taken into account when negotiating with plumbers.

Thank you Mike. Well, I must have been well and truly poisoned. Every house or flat occupied in London from my birth in 1946 to moving to France 6 or 7 years ago had the water main entering the premises via lead piping. I know it's dangerous stuff. But a big concern is whether I can afford to pay a plumber to change it, irrespective of whether it is legal. I shall have to ask for devis from several plumbers.

Thank you for your advice.


Doesn't really matter if it is a legal requirement, lead is a cumulative poison and you should get rid of it as soon as possible. It has been suggested that lead poisoning from plumbing contributed to the decline of the Roman empire. This isn't just one of those interfering Brussels things that is safely ignored! Lead is also banned in paint and petrol and as a component of the solder used to join water pipes.

Plus, Alex, what goes back out. That is why I recommended talking to SPANC way back some.

You are basically responsible and liable for anything that is your side of the water meter. This is a general liability with regard to household water distribution.

Thank you for this advice. But I still don't know whether I am legally obliged to change the lead piping. Certainly, on health grounds I would like to. I'm hoping it's just a short section which pokes our of a wall in our lavatory just before our existing water meter. It must meet up with copper piping seen in the adjacent kitchen somewhere in the wall. The old water meter will be redundant once we connect to the new copper main because it already has a meter for us on it outside the door to our flat. But quite how water will reach our kitchen and adjacent loo without totally destroying much of the wall tiling in the kitchen, I don't know! It's very complicated because inside our flat the piping before our meter is on the surface of our kitchen walls and is copper. Then it disappears into a very thick wall (19th century stone building) before emergerging as lead in the lavatory. From there, after the existing meter, the water goes back into the kitchen to serve the sink and the gas boiler in one direction, and in another direction is goes into our bathroom to serve a shower, wash-hand basin, another loo, and a washing machine.


Your problem is this. Where different metals meet, like copper or lead, lead and brass taps, lead and iron, copper and iron and they are in contact with an electrolytic solution which would be water with various salts in it… calcium for example, you get galvanic corrosion.

That means in some cases lead is likely to leach into your water at the junction of the lead pipe and copper. You can stop this by putting a length of plastic pipe between the two, but you will still have the problem where the lead meets other metals in your house.

Also depending on the state of your lead pipework, if very old, they may be internally corroded so be leaving traces of lead in your water.

You are better off replacing your lead pipes… cheaper than hospital bills.

Ask your local SPANC (service public d'assainissement non collectif). Although they are not responsible for fresh water, they are for what goes back out as sewage and drainage and if there is lead piping no lead residues are allowed to go into either.

A plumber should be able to tell you for sure and replace the lead for copper.

the mairie/water company should be able to confirm if your stretch has been replaced or not. It will have been a massive programme of work for them over the past couple of years to update. They should know which areas of their reseau d'alimentation d'eau still contain plomb. Also when the mairie/water company do their water quality tests they should be publishing the mg of lead in the water.

oops try again now Ive fixed it

Thank you Steve and Suzanne. I know that in our part of Montpellier any lead pipes that were in the public network have been replaced. I think Steve needs to find out if that is the case where he lives. What I don't know is if there is a deadline for replacing lead pipes on private premises. Unfortunately, I cannot get the link that Suzanne provided to work. In my flat I can see a small section of lead pipe coming out of the wall in our lavatory which leads to our water meter, but how much more lead pipe there is in the wall and where it comes from I have no idea. It looks as if even from the old lead main in the building, now replaced by copper but not yet in use, the piping within our flat which joined it is already in copper, but for some reason at some point before the meter the copper becomes lead it becomes lead. I'll have to employ a plumber to see what goes to where and whence it comes!


Thanks for the response but Getting a 404 page not found on link.

I would be happy to replace my bit (as mentioned its only quite short) but how do I know I am not just replacing the last 2 feet of a mile long lead pipe and therefore wasting my time

hi - we looked into this too as we're renovating our house so wanted to check if the pipework had been replaced already or not.

Have a look at this http://www.sante.gouv.fr/le-remplacement-des-canalisations-et-branchements-en-plomb.html

the date was end of 2013 for replacing lead pipe from the public network to the private, though quite a lot remains outstanding to be replaced. From what I can see it looks like you are responsible for replacing the pipework in your property to the mains connections in your communal building.

I have a small run (maybe 2 feet) of lead pipe leading into the house - very old house in middle of village. Who is responsible for replacing if I ever got concerned enough (I use bottled water) as I assume the bit in my place is probably the end of a long lead pipe from the mains and replacing the 2 feet would achieve little