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:
- General Information on Lead in Drinking Water
- Government and Utility Actions
- Steps Residents and Parents Can Take
- Recent Articles
Developing Lead Service Line Inventories Presented by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators
Many state drinking water administrators are considering developing inventories of the materials used in service lines that are part of the distribution systems of community water systems (CWSs) they regulate. Some states have already conducted voluntary or mandatory surveys of CWSs whether on their own or in response to state legislation. Others are preparing to use the information in the next round of Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessments (DWINSA) that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing pursuant to Section 2015 of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The 2020 DWINSA will include an estimate of the number of public and private lead service lines as well as an estimate of the costs to replace all lead service lines, which will be a significant undertaking for water systems to develop and states to collect information on. To assist states that are considering initiating a lead service line (LSL) inventory, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) has developed the following guidance based on the experience of the states that have already conducted or are preparing to develop a comprehensive inventory of service line materials.
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.
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.
Get the Lead Out: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for Our Children at School
This report, Get the Lead Out: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for Our Children at School, by the Environment America and U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides recommendations for states and communities to address the problem of lead in drinking water in schools across the nation.
Research to Move Toward Evidence-Based Recommendations for Lead Service Line Disclosure Policies in Home Buying and Home Renting Scenarios
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.