If you are living in New Orleans, you may be – or may have been – exposed to elevated lead levels in your drinking water without even realizing it, a risk that could spike as the city of New Orleans embarks on a $2.4 billion infrastructure overhaul.Serious as the problem may be, Cedric Grant says it might be more your problem than it is his.
That is the finding of a new report released Wednesday (July 19) by the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office. It calls on the city and the Sewerage & Water Board to be more targeted and proactive in warning residents of the risk of higher lead levels in the water. It also recommends the city take specific steps to help residents protect themselves, like handing out water filters and developing incentive programs to help low-income families remove lead service pipes on their property.
“Other cities are making great efforts in communicating with their citizens about this problem,” Inspector General Ed Quatreveaux said. “We need to take the small level of energy we have here around this issue and intensify it, because this is a serious problem.”
Lead, once valued for its malleability and durability, was widely used for city service lines and home plumbing up until the mid-20th Century when we started to learn more about its toxicity. A ban on the installation of lead pipes came into effect in 1986.Can't afford to protect your family from the poison that enters your home thanks to an old building code that has nothing to with you? Too bad. You probably should have been more "responsible." What are you thinking trying to live in this city if you can't meet the cost of paying for your own resilience anyway?
Homes built before the late 1980s, which includes much of New Orleans’ housing stock, may still have lead service pipes, which can release the toxic metal into the water.
Grant with S&WB has long emphasized the agency is only responsible for replacing lines on public property. “There are public and private responsibilities here,” he said.
There may also be public lead service lines still in service under our roads. Grant said the agency replaces any lead lines it encounters during regular work, though, because lead was once an industry standard, it does not have a catalog of where those lines are. (The city started taking inventory of the city’s 140,000 service lines last fall. So far, 3,000 service lines have been recorded, 800 of which were lead.)