Nov 10, 2010

Tests Show Older New York City Homes May Have Elevated Lead in Water

Lead pipes in older buildings can result in lead levels that exceed EPA standards

A new report from the city of New York that lead may be present in the pipes of older buildings provides more reason for residents to consider using final barrier technology in their homes, according to the Water Quality Association (WQA).

According to a report at, the city is telling residents that older buildings in New York may have lead pipes, or pipes with lead fixtures, which can impact the tap water of private homes by introducing lead into water that has been sitting in the pipes for several hours or more.

“This report is one more piece of evidence to consumers that in-home technology should be utilized as a final barrier to contamination,” said Peter J. Censky, executive director of WQA. Final barrier technology refers to devices and systems installed at the point of water use. These include activated carbon, ion exchange resins, membranes (reverse osmosis, nanofiltration and ultra- and micro-filtration) and selective media such as arsenic removal, ozone or distillation. Final barrier technology provides an effective and cost-efficient way to treat water, Censky said. He noted that only about 1% of centrally treated water is consumed by people; to treat the other 99% to final barrier standards is expensive.

WQA’s Gold Seal product certification offers a scientific method for consumers to ensure the effectiveness of the devices they purchase. Product testing follows guidelines developed by standards-development agency ANSI/NSF. Each technology is tested according to different standards.

At the same time science and technology is constantly discovering more potential contaminants in water supplies, such as pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupters, including some in water that has been centrally treated. Final barrier treatment can stop many elements that come into the home, even after water has been centrally treated.

According to the report, “as part of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] conducts tap water testing at a sample of homes in New York City known to have lead service lines or lead solder in pipes. The results of this year’s sampling show an increase in the number of samples above 15 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] standard for lead in water.”

This year’s test results show that 14% (30 samples) of 222 samples has elevated lead levels. Whenever more than 10% of the samples exceed 15 ppb, EPA requires public notification by the water supplier. New York City is not unique in experiencing this. Cities such as Boston, Washington, D.C., and Portland have all exceeded the action threshold in the past decade.