Data show 82 New York water systems have exceeded lead limit

04.10.16 | Bob Price

An Associated Press review of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows 82 out of 2,800 public and private drinking water systems in New York state have had lead levels exceeding the federal action limit at least once since 2013.

That includes 16 schools or day care systems that have their own water supplies. New York has about 4,800 public and 2,100 private schools, but most of them don't have to test their water because it comes from municipal systems that do the testing. Some state lawmakers are seeking to change that.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a Democrat whose central New York district includes several schools dealing with lead problems, introduced a bill last month requiring local water districts to test for lead at all schools and day care centers every three years, with the state picking up the tab. It would require written notification to parents if elevated lead levels are found.

"Some people surmise it could be a fairly widespread problem," Lifton said. "A lot of schools were built when lead was used in the plumbing. As we do the testing, we'll find out how widespread the problem is."

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, with bipartisan support, would provide funding to school districts to test water for lead in buildings constructed before the federal Safe Drinking Water Act required lead-free plumbing in 1986. Lead exposure is especially dangerous for young children because even low levels in the blood have been shown to affect learning and behavior.