Governor Hochul Called on to Prioritize Lead-Free Drinking Water

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week rally urges Governor Hochul to sign the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act and dedicate funds to lead pipe replacement

ALBANY, New York – In recognition of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, concerned citizens, environmental advocates, and state legislators came together to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to prioritize the health and safety of all New Yorkers by addressing the pervasive problem of lead in our drinking water. New York ranks sixth in the nation for the highest number of lead pipes, with an alarming estimated 494,000 lead service lines providing water to homes, schools, and businesses.

Rally attendees called on Governor Hochul to sign the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act (S5512/A6115) by the end of the year, which would require data about where lead pipes are located to be accessible online, making it much easier for New Yorkers to find out if they’re at risk. Most homeowners and tenants do not currently know whether a lead pipe services their building.

Hochul was also called on to provide $100 million in additional funds for lead service line replacement in the 2024 state budget, which would complement the $500 million in federal funds earmarked for New York State. Though the state has invested $5 billion to clean water since 2017, a mere $30 million, less than 1% of the total, has been directed towards lead pipe replacement. The cost to replace all lead pipes in New York is estimated to be at least $2.5 billion.

Lead exposure poses severe health risks, such as high blood pressure, memory issues, mood disorders, developmental delays, and more. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable, with lead exposure linked to cognitive impairments, hearing loss, and behavioral issues. Contaminated pipes predominantly affect low-income communities and communities of color.

Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and sponsor of the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act, said, “Lead poisoning is an urgent public health issue facing New York’s children – and it disproportionately affects children in low-income and marginalized families. There is no safe level of lead for our young, and lead exposure can have serious lifelong negative health impacts. The good news is that it’s entirely preventable. I thank Environmental Advocates for keeping this issue front and center and for their advocacy for the Lead Pipes Right to Know Act, which would require the New York State Department of Health to make a drinking water service line inventory and map publicly available and aid effective targeting of state and federal funding for lead service line replacements. Let’s make childhood lead exposure and lead poisoning a thing of the past in New York State!”

Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and sponsor of the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act, said, “On this National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, I urge Governor Hochul to sign my Lead Pipe Right to Know Act. This critical bill will make information about the number and location of lead pipelines easily accessible to New Yorkers in an effort to get lead out of New York’s drinking water,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Since there’s no safe level of lead, we must implement all possible measures to update our state’s infrastructure and ensure access to clean water across the State.” 

“New Yorkers should be able to turn on their tap water and know that it is lead-free in the 21st Century,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D–Albany). “Replacing all of New York’s lead pipes is estimated to cost $2.5 billion, and with approximately 14,000 lead pipes remaining in the City of Albany, it’s imperative we aggressively begin to fund lead pipe replacement. This year, the Assembly Majority allocated more than $600 million to support clean water infrastructure, including the replacement of lead pipes, but we know there’s more work to do in next year’s budget — because there is no ‘safe’ level of lead. As a proud cosponsor of this legislation, I urge the Governor to sign this vital right-to-know bill sponsored by my colleague Assemblymember Amy Paulin into law to protect New Yorkers’ health, and look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and clean water advocates to ensure that we’re adequately funding lead pipe replacement in New York and here in the Capital Region. Most New Yorkers are unaware if their property relies on the use of lead pipes, and simply put; you can’t fix what you don’t know about.”

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh said, “I am proud to support the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act and increased in funding in the NYS budget for lead pipe replacement. This year we were successful in advocating for funding in the budget for lead pipe replacement but we know that more is needed. As a former Mayor, health care professional, and as a legislator who has consistently advocated with my colleague Assemblymember Otis each year to include water infrastructure funding in the NYS budget, I firmly believe that we all need to work together to address the need to replace lead pipes which lead to elevated lead water levels. I thank my local partners who have been proactive in identifying lead service lines in their communities, the legislators and advocates who continue to advance this public health issue, and the federal partners who secured Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding that is part of the investment that we must continue to grow.”

“Every day that funds aren’t being allocated toward replacing lead service lines, children of New York State are being poisoned by lead. There is no safe amount of lead in the drinking water and earmarking funds for communities to remedy this issue should be a top priority,” said Jona Favreau, Troy resident and mother

“There is no safe level of lead. New York needs to champion the right of every citizen to clean, safe drinking water. As states across the nation ramp up their efforts against lead contamination, New York has an opportunity to emerge as a leader in this fight. We call on Governor Hochul to sign the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act and allocate dedicated funding for lead pipe replacement in next year’s budget,” said Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates NY.

“For far too long, lead pipes delivering drinking water to our homes have been a clear and present danger. The Lead Pipe Right to Know Bill is an important step to solving this problem because knowing how many lead pipes are out there and where they are will allow us to have an informed conversation about the cost and financing options to remove them once and for all.  We urge Governor Hochul to sign this important bill quickly,” said Joshua Klainberg, Senior Vice President at New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV).

“Governor Hochul must sign the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act so that New Yorkers are not kept in the dark as to whether the water they’re drinking comes from a lead service line. There must also be dedicated funding to pull hundreds of thousands of lead pipes out of the ground and ensure safe water for all as soon as possible,” said Joan Leary Matthews, Senior Attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The longer we wait, the more people will be exposed to lead. And, data shows that over the next thirty-five years, New York State can save over $40 billion in health costs by replacing lead pipes.”

“Lead poisoning changes lives forever, and lead from pipes can be the leading source, especially for formula-fed infants. By signing the Lead Pipes Right to Know Act, Governor Hochul has the power to take an important step to prevent New York’s children from suffering loss of IQ and other neurological harm, among the myriad other health problems lead poisoning can cause,” said Bobbi Wilding, Executive Director of Clean+Healthy. “We all need to know where lead pipes are present – to ensure they are replaced, and to take protective actions in the interim.”

“Knowledge is power, and a fundamental step to ensuring the public has clean, safe, water, is to arm them with knowledge about the quality of their water, and the infrastructure delivering it,” said Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate with Earthjustice.  The Lead Pipe Right to Know Act ensures that families are no longer in the dark by requiring they have access to data on lead service lines and can make informed decisions to protect their health. Critically, it will also aid local governments, and the state, in implementing the solution – to replace all lead service lines. Governor Hochul should not hesitate to sign this common sense bill into law.”