Getting Close to Yes on the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act

By Josh Klainberg

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. A source of exposure to lead lurks inside the lead service lines that deliver drinking water from the water main in the street to residences. Lead leaches from lead service lines into water when a chemical reaction known as corrosion occurs. Water suppliers use a technique know as corrosion control to prevent this however the most effective way to prevent lead exposure is to replace these pipes.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are at least 494,000 lead service lines in the state, putting New York State as one of the top six states with the most lead service lines. New York State, like every other state, is preparing a statewide inventory, collecting information from nearly 2,900 public water suppliers from around the state. This inventory is due October 16, 2024. What becomes of the information collected by the New York Department of Health and monitoring whether lead service lines are being removed is a concern to environmental and public health groups.

The chairs of the Health Committee of the New York State Legislature — Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymember Amy Paulin – have introduced legislation, S.5512 / A. 6115 known as the “Lead Pipe Right to Know Act.” This bill will make information about the number and location of lead pipes easily accessible to the public and decision-makers, so that state and federal resources can be secured and efficiently disbursed to local efforts to get the lead out of New York’s drinking water by removing all lead pipes. 

Specifically, it codifies requirements by the US Environmental Protection Agency and guidance from the NYS Department of Health for each water utility to develop a comprehensive inventory of all of the service lines in its system by October 2024, and to regularly update those inventories with new information. It also requires the NYS Department of Health to make those inventories available on the department’s website, and to create interactive maps allowing New Yorkers to easily learn their risk of lead exposure.

This bill has been well received in Albany this session. The state senate passed the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act on April 25, 2023 and as of press time, the state assembly has this bill on the floor calendar meaning that it is likely going to be put up for a vote before the legislature concludes their session on June 8.

We’ll keep you posted on the status of this bill and report back to you on whether we are able to achieve passage in both houses in the legislature.