Solid Science Practical Solutions


Lead in Drinking Water - Back in the News

With all the recent headlines and news reports from Flint, MI to Newark, NJ and elsewhere, many building managers, owners and occupants are asking:
Should I be worried about lead in my drinking water?
The answer is YES for many but it depends on the following key factors:
  1. The age of the building and the plumbing system. Buildings constructed before 1986 and even buildings renovated after 1986 may still contain lead plumbing components that can leach lead into the drinking water.
  2. The quality of the water entering the building. While it is uncommon for potable water sources to naturally contain lead, if the incoming water is acidic or low in mineral content, it may cause corrosion and leach lead into the drinking water from lead containing service connections, pipes, solder or brass fittings that are present in the plumbing system.
Recent news reports highlight that this toxic metal is increasingly being found in schools, child care centers, homes, apartments and common interest communities (condominiums, cooperatives, homeowner associations, etc.). Unfortunately, this is both a historic and persistent public health problem that the government has approached in a very fragmented way, as they only require drinking water suppliers to test for lead in a very small number of homes or business within their distribution network. For instance, if the supplier's distribution system services over 100,000 people, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection requires that about 100 drinking water samples be collected and tested for lead. These tests give a general system-wide picture but do not reflect conditions at a specific building or drinking water outlet. So there are still many people who are regularly consuming untested and possibly lead contaminated water.
As you will see in the article from this link, regulatory oversight is not always sufficient to ensure consumer safety. 


In 2016, high concentrations of lead were found in drinking water at 30 Newark public school buildings and in many other school districts throughout NJ. In response to this and other publicized incidents, in 2017, the New Jersey Department of Education began requiring comprehensive and fully documented lead in drinking water testing for all drinking water fixtures every six (6) years in all schools and child care centers throughout the state.
Although there is no specific requirement for lead testing in water at apartment buildings and common interest communities, many people who live in older (prior to 1986) multi-family buildings that have not yet been tested for lead are at risk. 

This may include pregnant women and young children, who are at greatest risk of health effects from lead exposure. For example, residents of a 37-story luxury tower in Newark's downtown were being urged not to drink their water after recent tests showed elevated lead levels in the building.

The following links document the latest lead in drinking water scare in Newark NJ:
While re-testing in this Newark building showed very low levels of lead due to possible testing irregularities, this case highlights the need for building managers and owners to be proactive and have reliable data upon which to make smart decisions.
How do I know if my buildings are at risk?
A recent NJ State Water Task Force report has estimated that about 350,000 homes and businesses and an unknown number of apartment buildings and common interest communities are served by lead service lines. Lead pipes were common in buildings constructed before 1940, and lead solder was used until 1986.
Here are some steps you can take:
  • Search for your water supplier, to see the results of their testing at New Jersey Drinking Water Watch. Enter your county and town at the bottom, to search for your supplier.
  • Open this link to see if your water provider has found elevated lead and what they are doing about it.
  • Check with your water company and municipality to see if they know whether you have lead service lines into your building(s).
  • Contact a plumbing contractor that is knowledgeable about your building(s) to do a plumbing survey of the building to document if lead or brass containing plumbing is present in your distribution system. 
  • Have your drinking water tested by a qualified consultant at a NJ Licensed Drinking Water laboratory.
While the risk of consuming lead contaminated drinking water is very real for residents of older buildings, there is no reason to panic. Garden State Environmental's team of Industrial Hygienists, Environmental Consultants and Environmental Technicians has already assisted and is currently working with numerous building managers and other organizations throughout New Jersey in planning and implementing lead in drinking water testing and providing guidance on any needed remedial work in response to high lead levels.  We have the experience and resources to assist you in finding out if this is an issue in your buildings and to provide guidance on the appropriate response.
Whether you use our services for sample collection and lab analysis only, or complete program planning, management and technical consulting, you will find our fees competitive and our services responsive, detail oriented and scientifically correct.
We'd be happy to help, please contact us at 201-652-1119 or email Jane Boogaert for more information or a price quote.