New York has lots of water issues. So Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did the right thing this week by signing a law requiring schools across the state to test for lead in their drinking water.
That decisiveness stands in marked contrast to the state’s attempts to deal with water contamination elsewhere, especially in the upstate communities of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh. Criticism of the state’s slow response there has devolved into an unproductive battle over culpability between state officials and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The lead-testing bill has good provisions, including a guarantee that the state will pay for most testing and corrective expenses via school-aid formulas currently in place. Testing must be completed by Oct. 31, and in elementary schools by the end of September. That’s an appropriate level of urgency given the harm that lead can cause in children, and that more than 20 Long Island school districts and many others around the state found excessive levels of lead when they did their own testing. Districts must report results to the state and promptly notify state and local health departments, parents and staff of excessive lead levels.
The districts must test correctly. In New York City earlier this year, officials evaluating more than 1,500 buildings let water run for two hours beforehand, a practice known as flushing, which cleans lead out of pipes and thereby skews results. The state’s new regulations require that water lie motionless in pipes for at least 8 hours, and up to 18 hours, before testing. The city has not yet committed to retesting all of its school buildings. It should.— The editorial board