City Officials: Tap Water Shows Elevated Lead Levels
(updated Fri 11/5/2010 7:15am)
NEW YORK (CBS 2 / 1010 WINS / WCBS 880) -- Whether you live in a house or an apartment, this could impact your life.
There's a water warning in New York City.
WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reports
The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday wait before you drink what's coming out of your faucet, reports CBS 2's Pablo Guzman.
Like most people, when Natalia Cole of Maspeth, Queens heard there were elevated levels of lead in the city's water supply, she got a bit nervous.
"There's nothing I can do," she said.
But the city said what was found was an increase in lead so small, it won't hurt you.
"The levels that were detected, which were very slightly above the action level that the EPA defines, don't pose any clear public health risk," said NYC DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway.
Holloway and Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, held a joint press conference about the slight increase in lead in the city's water, and urged all New Yorkers to run cold water first before using it for drinking or cooking.
Guzman talked with Dr. John Rosen of Montefiore Hospital, an expert in lead poisoning among children. He said that while there's not enough lead in water to be a problem …
"When it comes to lead, it's always better to be safe than sorry because according to the U.S. CDC, according to the U.S. EPA, there really is no level of lead that's safe in children," Dr. Rosen said.
The potential for lead in the water increases in buildings and homes built before 1987, because lead solder was used to seal pipe joints. And for buildings put up before 1961, there's an even greater concern -- because the pipelines that brought water to those homes were made entirely of lead.
1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reports
The city monitors water in older buildings through regular testing as part of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In this year's tests, conducted from June to September, 14 percent -- or 30 out of 222 tested buildings -- showed lead levels higher than the accepted benchmark.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires local utilities to take action if 10 percent or more of tested buildings have lead levels of more than 15 parts per billion.
Too much lead can damage the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells.
The city said drinking water is rarely the cause of lead poisoning but can contribute to a person's overall exposure.
The guidelines say a tap needs to be run if the water in that faucet has not been used for six hours or longer.
The last time the city's water triggered such a response was in 2005, the DEP said.
In the past decade, other cities have similarly exceeded the EPA benchmark, including Boston, Washington and Portland, Ore.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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