Opinion: Lead water pipes threaten public health. Partial replacements could make it worse

CHRIS STURM / NORTHJERSEY.COM – The crisis in Flint, Mich., made clear the health impacts of lead in drinking water, especially for infants, young children, and fetuses. Now water tests have found lead contamination in homes and schools across New Jersey. While the 1991 federal Lead and Copper Rule, which relies primarily on adjusting water chemistry to minimize the leaching of lead from old pipes into water, works most – but not all – of the time, it has failed to eliminate the biggest underlying source of lead in water: lead service lines.

These pipes, made of lead, deliver water to residences and smaller commercial buildings from the main under the street and serve as “lead straws.” There are an estimated 350,000 lead service lines in New Jersey, and until they are replaced, the problem of lead in water will not be resolved …

Chris Sturm is managing director for policy and water at New Jersey Future.

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