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Lead in Drinking Water

Lead has been in the news frequently, nationally and in New Jersey. It is a toxic substance that causes neurological damage, especially to young children. Lead in drinking water is one source of exposure. As indicated by recent drinking water test results from some schools in New Jersey and nationwide such as the widely-publicized crisis in Flint, some drinking water taps are testing high in lead.

To explain why this is happening and to put it in a broader context that considers other water infrastructure needs, the Jersey Water Works Steering Committee has issued a statement. Jersey Water Works has also convened a collaborative task force to develop a practical, broadly-supported action agenda to eliminate lead in drinking water throughout New Jersey. Additionally, Jersey Water Works has developed this library of resources to help educate our constituents on lead in drinking water, including its effects and best-practice solutions for communities, utilities and residents.

The resources are organized into these sections:

 

Resources

Assessment of Eliminating Lead in Minnesota Drinking Water

 The 2017 Minnesota Legislature directed the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to “conduct an analysis to determine the scope of the lead problem in Minnesota’s water and the cost to eliminate lead exposure in drinking water.” In this report, Assessment of Eliminating Lead in Minnesota Drinking Water, MDH assesses the scope of the lead problem by examining the extent of lead already in water systems as well as factors that allow lead to get in drinking water. However, because drinking water systems across the state are diverse and have varying requirements and resource needs, broad estimates are used to gauge costs.

Lead in Minnesota Water: Assessment of Eliminating Lead in Minnesota Drinking Water

Rates could fund lead pipe replacement in critical states: Laws in states with the most lead service lines support the practice

In Rates could fund lead pipe replacement in critical states, Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School and Environmental Defense Fund reviewed state laws and policies in 13 states with the most lead service lines (LSLs), and found no explicit barriers to using rate funds to replace the lines on private property. These states have an estimated 4.2 million LSLs, more than two-thirds of the nation’s total. In these states, publicly-owned utilities can act pursuant to existing state legislation by determining that the practice serves a public purpose—protecting public health. Investor-owned utilities can do the same, but typically need approval of the state’s utility commission. While we have not reviewed the remaining states, we anticipate that the state laws and policies are similar to the ones we evaluated.

Rates could fund lead pipe replacement in critical states: Laws in states with the most lead service lines support the practice

Research to Move Toward Evidence-Based Recommendations for Lead Service Line Disclosure Policies in Home Buying and Home Renting Scenarios

Homebuyers and renters take action when told they may have a lead service line

EDF and collaborators at Cornell published a new study that provides insight into how disclosure policies can impact potential home-buyer and renter behavior. This effort builds on a report EDF published in 2017 grading state housing disclosure policies according to their ability to help homebuyers make informed decisions about lead service lines (LSLs) before they sign a sales contract. LSLs are pipes that connect homes to the water mains under the street and are a major source of lead in drinking water. Four states — Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania — and Washington, DC scored an A-. Twenty-one states scored a D or F. The remaining 25 states scored a B or C.

Research to Move Toward Evidence-Based Recommendations for Lead Service Line Disclosure Policies in Home Buying and Home Renting Scenarios

State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States

This report, State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States,describes the features of statewide initiatives in operation between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2018 in 24 states and the District of Columbia to conduct testing for lead in school drinking water, and the prevalence of elevated lead concentrations in tap water in public schools based on available data. To identify and summarize the features of state policies and programs, researchers conducted online searches using a search engine and by scanning state legislative and department websites and existing resources from public health organizations. Researchers communicated with state government agencies to verify their policy or program and to request relevant documents and up-to-date data on water quality test results for lead.

Key findings of the study include that there is no uniformity in:

  • States’ approaches to create and oversee programs to test for elevated lead in school drinking water
  • States’ action levels
  • States’ protocols to test school drinking water for lead and to share their findings
  • States’ recommendations for school responses to testing
  • States’ organization and maintenance of water quality data

In 12 states (which were those with available data on the lead content found in drinking water in schools), the research team found that:

  • 12% of all water samples tested had a lead concentration at or above the state’s action level
  • 44% of schools tested had one or more water samples with a lead concentration at or above the state’s action level
  • Schools that collected and tested water from a greater number of taps were also more likely to identify a sample with elevated lead concentrations
  • Use of lower action levels by a state program would increase the proportion of schools that would need to take steps to address the content of lead in the drinking water

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