New Law Will Show Location of Lead Drinking Water Pipes in New York

The Lead Pipe Right to Know Act is the first step toward replacing all of the lead service lines in the state.

Examples (from left to right) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate


U.S. EPA Region 5

Yesterday, New York governor Kathy Hochul signed the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act (S5512/A6115). This new law will result in more comprehensive inventories of drinking water service lines, particularly lead service lines, which are a public health threat and need to be replaced. Online interactive maps by addresses within the utility districts will also be required.
In her approval message, Governor Hochul states: “I fully support the goals of this legislation, which aims to protect New Yorkers from lead poisoning. There is no amount of lead that is safe for ingestion, and I am pleased that New York will be a national leader in removing lead from our drinking water.” 

This new law also recognizes the obvious: Water utilities need to know where lead service lines are so that they can efficiently plan for their replacement and leverage state and federal funding for those replacements. The Lead Pipe Right to Know Act is the first step toward replacing all of the lead service lines in New York. 

Effects from lead exposure 

Lead is poisonous neurotoxin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization all agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. 

The impacts of lead exposure can be severe. Even at very low levels once considered safe, lead can cause serious, irreversible damage to the developing brains and nervous systems of babies and young children. Lead can decrease a child’s cognitive capacity, cause behavioral problems, and limit the ability to concentrate. Even in otherwise healthy adults, lead exposure can cause adverse cardiovascular and kidney effects, cognitive dysfunction, elevated blood pressure, and infertility in both men and women. 

What this new law does 

The Lead Pipe Right to Know Act adds section 1114-b to the state public health law. Specifically, the law codifies requirements for the compilation of service line inventories set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and guidance provided by the New York State Department of Health. In other words, the requirements are in one place now, with the force of law, providing more certainty to the water utilities. 

The bill also promotes transparency by requiring the inventories to be regularly updated and mapped and posted online. Some cities in the state provide interactive maps for lead service lines, including Syracuse and New York City. With these maps and their continued updates under the new law, New Yorkers can more easily discover whether they have a lead service line providing water to their home, school, or workplace. Having readily accessible information about where lead service lines are located is necessary to protect public health for all of New York State’s communities. 

Increase funding next

We need to get all lead service lines replaced in New York—knowing where they are is a key step to getting this work done. Governor Hochul and the state legislature have taken a step in the right direction with the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act. Next, the state must take further aggressive action to remove and replace these pipes. Chief among next steps is for the state to provide for funding not only from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law but also from the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, to name but two other funding sources. Increased funding will help to ensure that these pipes are replaced. 

This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.

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