May 16, 2023

Tracking lead services lines in New York could easier

New Yorkers could have an easier time determining whether a lead service line is bringing water to their home under a measure that will head to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk.

The measure passed by state lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session will also give policymakers a better understanding of how many lead service lines exist in New York.

"New York is leading the country in progressive climate change legislation that keeps our communities healthy and safe," state Senate Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera said. "The Lead Pipe Right to Know Act 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. We can combat environmental injustice by taking stock of our state's infrastructure and ensuring access to clean water across the state."

Approved by both chambers, the measure would require public water systems to develop and regularly update an inventory of service lines and summary for each location, material composition and other data.

The data would be submitted to the state Department of Health, which would publish the information on its website. The Department of Health would also be required to create an interactive map or maps of service line inventories from public water systems serving more than 10,000 people, searchable by address.

"For far too long, lead pipes delivering drinking water to our homes have been a clear and present danger," said Julie Tighe, president of the League of Conservation Voters. "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."

State officials this year have raised concerns over lead in residential homes, often older structures, that can especially hold a negative impact on kids. It's estimated there are at least 494,000 lead service lines in New York.

Hochul this year announced an effort to boost lead inspections in communities outside of New York City.

New York may be sixth out of 50 states when it comes to the prevalence of lead service lines, based on estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Lead poisoning is an urgent public health issue facing New York's children – and it disproportionately affects children in low-income and marginalized families," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Amy Paulin. "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."