Lead Found in New York State Public School Drinking Water

by | Apr 6, 2017

In September 2016, Governor Cuomo signed legislation requiring all public schools in New York State to sample their drinking water taps for lead and copper.

The new legislation was accompanied by emergency regulations promulgated by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) requiring test results be submitted to the department within 60 days of the signing of the legislation.

On 27 January 2017, the Department of Health issued the results.

Lead Found in 75% of Schools

Of the approximately 3,000 schools tested, 2,300 (roughly 75%) had at least one faucet where the concentration of lead exceeded the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) guideline of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Records show that all schools reacted quickly to take affected faucets offline.

Most schools are in the process of replacing lead pipes or installing water filters.

The New York State law requires that schools re-sample every three years.

Lead Action Levels

The action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) was established by the USEPA in the Lead Copper Rule, a 1991 amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The USEPA recommends “zero” lead in water but set the action level at 15 ppb because lead is present in our environment as a background metal – it is simply impractical to apply a zero tolerance policy.

Lead-tainted Piping

The presence of lead in drinking water received national attention in 2015 and during the 2016 Presidential Campaign as the City of Flint, Michigan, dealt with widespread drinking water issues caused by the corrosion of legacy lead piping.

Lead pipes were widely used in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Lead pipes were replaced with copper in new construction beginning in the 1950s; however, few cities replaced existing lead pipes in the existing systems.

This leaves many cities with lead pipes more or less randomly located throughout their distribution system.

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  1. Tony Saturni

    How far above the standard were the exceedences? What was the average exceedence?


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