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Photo via Pixabay

Ridgewood residents may want to think twice before drinking a glass of unfiltered water from the sink.

A new study revealed that the neighborhood, along with Glendale and Maspeth, has the highest levels of lead in its tap water in all of Queens.

Based on water testing data from 2006 through 2016, the September 2018 study conducted by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) concluded that the neighborhoods in Community District 5 had more than 6 percent of samples above the “action level” set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). No other community district in the borough had more than 5.5 percent of its tests come back exceeding the action level.

According to the study, however, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not required to take action unless 10 percent or more of all samples taken citywide are above the EPA limit.

“In a city the size of New York, this means a substantial number of homes and families may be exposed to lead from their faucets,” the study notes.

It’s no coincidence that the study also points out the buildings with the highest risk for lead in the tap water are older and smaller. The highest rates of tap water testing above the action level occurred in buildings constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, and much of the residential buildings in Ridgewood’s historic districts were constructed before or during that era.

The size of the buildings is significant because the lead material limited the pipe diameter to 2 inches, meaning larger buildings needed wider service lines that were produced with materials other than lead. Therefore, “lower-density areas that are dominated by smaller residential buildings are disproportionately affected, while parts of the city with higher density and newer residential construction are largely spared,” the report states.

Image via New York City Independent Budget Office

Image via New York City Independent Budget Office

Lead piping was commonly used in residential plumbing until its use was prohibited in all new construction projects in 1961. While lead service lines built before then are still in use throughout the city, local regulations require that damaged lines must be replaced with new, lead-free pipes. Yet, undamaged lines are not required to be replaced, and the DEP cannot force building owners to replace lead pipes unless the citywide EPA limit is exceeded.

Landlords are also not required to notify potential new tenants of the risk of lead contamination, nor inform existing tenants of a water test that is above the action level or if upcoming work may disturb the building’s water system. State law only requires that new homebuyers must be informed that the building has lead pipes, the study points out.

While the study concludes that more transparency for renters would greatly benefit the health of the public, it also reiterates that the DEP is compliant with federal lead regulations. The citywide average lead levels have been steadily declining for many years, and the action level has only been exceeded once since 2002, according to the report.

“NYC has the best tap water in the nation — it is tested more than 600,000 times annually and is lead-free and meets or exceeds all health and safety regulations,” said a spokesperson for the DEP.

The department also recommends that property owners remove any and all lead from internal plumbing, and it offers free lead testing kits to residents with any concerns. In addition, everyone should run the tap water for 30 seconds after it hasn’t been used for a few hours to ensure that any water that has been sitting in internal plumbing is flushed out, the spokesperson said.

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