Expanding Lead Testing

Environmental Advocates Support this Bill

Explanation: 

This legislation strengthens testing for lead in drinking water in New York’s schools and parks and requires lead abatement. With young children at highest risk of life-long damage from this neurotoxin, New York must take steps to ensure its schools and parks are lead-free.

There is no safe level of lead in drinking water. The growing bodies and developing organs of children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure. Even low levels of lead in children can cause neurological damage, impaired hearing, slowed growth, and anemia.

This legislation builds on New York’s nation-leading efforts to reduce lead in drinking water. In 2016, the Legislature required public schools to regularly test their tap water for lead and take action if elevated levels were discovered. A 2018 analysis of the statewide testing data revealed the shocking prevalence of lead in drinking water: around 82 percent of school buildings reported one or more taps that tested above the state lead action level (15 parts per billion).

This bill rightly mandates that elevated levels of lead at a drinking water tap must be remediated within 90 days. Currently, the NYS Department of Health (DOH) regulations do not give schools a deadline. Consequently, many schools simply shut down taps rather than take steps, such as pipe replacement or filtration, to make their water drinkable. This is not a long-term solution.

This bill also requires testing for lead every three years, as opposed to the current requirement of five years. More frequent testing is especially important given that lead levels in drinking water can increase as pipes age.

We recommend that this bill incorporate several additional measures to more fully protect children from the negative health effects of lead exposure:

  • Lower the lead action level from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 1 ppb
  • Require schools to submit to DOH the specific lead level of each outlet, as well as the types of remediation planned or in place

Summary: 

The bill amends Section 1110 of the Public Health Law to require potable water testing in schools and state and local parks at least once every three years and abate any finding of lead contamination within ninety days.

Memo #: 

69