A powerful figure in the New Orleans government is going after the city water utility for allegedly failing to warn residents about the potential threat of lead in their drinking water.
“The New Orleans inspector general says the city hasn't adequately warned residents that ongoing street repairs and water system improvements could result in temporarily high lead levels in some buildings' tap water,” CBS News reported.
“Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's latest report says some old city water lines — and lines on private properties— are made of lead, which can affect the brain and nervous system when ingested. Chemicals added to the water form a protective coating in those pipes. But Quatrevaux cites experts who say disturbance of the aging lines can jar some of the coating loose and allow lead to contaminate the water,” the report said.
Citing a bevy of water infrastructure projects in the works, Quatrevaux said residents may be exposed to a spike in lead levels. He said residents have not been adequately warned.
“In a report released [last week], the IG said the city and Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) have not alerted residents about the danger or provided them with information on how to reduce the risk of increased lead levels that might happen as some lead service lines are partially replaced or as nearby work could affect them, sending some lead particles into interior pipes,” WWL reported.
The 69-page report originated with an inspection of the S&WB’s water quality testing practices. The inspection made the Inspector General’s office “aware of an imminent risk to public health,” the report said. The report recommended that city water officials take the following actions:
New Orleans water officials stressed that they are in compliance with water laws and regulations. They said that city water is safe.
"There's no amount of education in this issue that's enough, and we're going to continue to do everything we can to keep the community informed," S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant told CBS affiliate WWL, "but I can tell you as we sit here today the water is safe, the water is in compliance with state and federal law."
Image credit: "Bourbon Street Between Bienville and Conti, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana 3," ken lund © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/