May 4, 2021 By Christian Murray
The state senate passed a bill last week that mandates that all drinking fountains at public parks be tested for lead on an ongoing basis.
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Mike Gianaris, would require that drinking fountains in all city, state and local parks across New York be tested every three years. Those fountains with elevated lead levels would need to be fixed within 90 days—requiring in most cases the replacement of old pipes.
There are thousands of drinking fountains in parks across New York state, with more than 3,500 in New York City parks alone.
The fountains in New York City parks were tested in 2019 as part of the Mayor’s LeadFreeNYC program. The Parks Dept. identified and turned off at least 20 of the 559 drinking fountains it tested in Queens parks at the time that were later repaired.
Gianaris’ legislation would mandate that these tests be conducted on an ongoing basis—at least once every three years. The results would have to be made public and be made available online.
“Lead mitigation strategies are among the most common sense and cost-effective public interventions we can make,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who is the assembly sponsor of the bill, which has yet to go to the floor for a vote. “We must ensure that our kids have access to safe water in our parks by improving testing to find and abate lead in our water fountains.”
The legislation has the support of several local organizations, such as the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Astoria Park Alliance and the Gantry Parent Association.
“Children and families are using New York’s green spaces now more than ever,” said Meghan Cirrito, immediate past board chair of the Gantry Parent Association. “It is imperative that we protect our children from lead, a toxic substance that can damage children’s precious brains.”
Gianaris, the senate deputy leader, was also able to pass another bill last week involving environmental safety.
The second would provide local authorities with greater power to prevent people acting in violation of the Environmental Conservation Law.
For instance, currently if a developer were in violation of certain environment restrictions, a municipality in many instances could issue a fine—but not be able to pull permits or require the violator to demolish an illegal structure.
The bill would make room for more aggressive enforcement, including ordering a halt to construction.