Lead Shoe Drops on Utica Schools

In my last correspondence I said this: "Rules and regulations by government agencies pertaining to water quality have increased significantly in number and in costs. Think about the 10s of millions of dollars that MVWA has had to spend in capital improvements during the last couple of decades to meet these unfunded mandates. When will the next lead shoe drop?"

Answer: it just happened this week as the NY State Legislature passed legislation lowering the lead limit in NYS schools from 15 to 5.

In 2016, New York became the first state to require all public schools to test for and remediate lead in drinking water with levels above 15 ppb when it passed the Safe School Drinking Water Act. Since 2016, several states such as Montana, Illinois, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have reduced their action levels to 5 ppb or less. Several other states such as Washington, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are actively considering lowering their action levels below 15 ppb.

The “5 is the new 15” report included an analysis of lab reports from 90% of all New York State school districts that were already identified in the State’s 2016 data, found that an additional 63,428 drinking water outlets, or 17.2%, currently in use that would need remediation under a more protective standard of 5 ppb compared to the current action level of 15 ppb. The economic analysis estimates that it would cost $30 million to remediate all the outlets, which represents a good ROI because the State already spent $28 million in the 2016 round of testing.

Please don't be disheartened by my words and by this NYS legislation. As I've already pointed out, some cities have already tackled and solved their lead problem. Furthermore, they did it before the infusion of cash now in the pipeline from state and federal governments to municipalities and school systems just like ours Newark, NJ. is but one example of the community working and coming together to successfully reach their goal of safe, clean drinking water in their schools and in their homes.

Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action says:

"The road to Newark's success was not a smooth one, first the schools then individual homes. In the end, we all worked together to leverage the funds needed to fully replace more than 18,000 lead service lines within 30 months," said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action. "Newark's accomplishments are unprecedented and very repeatable. We want to send a strong message to the EPA, State and Congress that we need to be as protective as possible as fast as possible when it comes to lead in drinking water. It takes both the political will and equitable funding tools to ensure that everyone regardless of their zip code, color of their skin or income has safe and affordable drinking water at the tap.

Now it's time for YOU to take action! Please contact your elected city and county officials, school board members, and the MVWA board members. Tell them to roll up their sleeves and work together to help Utica get the lead out of its drinking water forever.


Richard Morris