On December 19, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul signed S.5512 / A. 6115, known as the “Lead Pipe Right to Know Act.”
Lead is a poisonous heavy metal that causes significant adverse health effects, particularly in children, and experts agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. You can’t see, smell, or taste lead, which is why it is important to know about whether lead may be present in your drinking water.
A source of exposure to lead in drinking water lurks inside the service lines and connectors that are made of lead and deliver drinking water from the water main in the street to residences. Lead leaches from lead service lines and connectors into water when a chemical reaction known as corrosion occurs. Lead can also flake off into pieces when the pipes and connectors are physically disturbed due to construction or maintenance work on or around the service lines.
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are at least 494,000 lead service lines in the state, putting New York as one of the top six states with the most lead service lines. New York, like every other state, is preparing a statewide inventory, collecting information from nearly 2,900 public water suppliers. This inventory is due October 16, 2024.
Public access to this information was a major concern to public health and environmental justice advocates. Thanks to this new law, the information collected by the New York State Department of Health will now be public facing via data sets and eventually visualization (i.e.mapping). It also requires all water suppliers to annually update their inventories with new information as it may take years to get a full understanding of how many lead pipes are out there and the pace by which they are being removed.
Julie Tighe, President of New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “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 Act is an important step to solving this problem. We salute Governor Hochul for working with Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Paulin to shine a light on this critical issue.”
This commonsense law is a foundational step towards transparency and action. By mandating that data regarding lead pipe locations be made accessible to the public online, New Yorkers will be empowered with the knowledge of potential risks in their area and the ability to protect themselves and their families. Knowing how many lead pipes are out there and where they are will allow decision makers at the state and local levels to have an informed conversation about the financial resources as well as the labor and materials needed to remove them once and for all.
We’ll keep you posted on the status of this law and report back to you once data sets and mapping become available.