Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
Hello New York City! On Shark Tank, we pitched to Barbara Corcoran, a titan of NYC real estate. New York City is often touted as the gold standard for tap water -- while it's true that the source water is pristine, the water runs into problems as it passes through older infrastructure... We wanted to give Shark Tank viewers some examples of how our Water Nerds examine water quality data before building a customer's order. This article gives a peek into our process for building filters for New York City residents.
The Elephant In The Room: Lead Contamination
New York City is an old city, with very old plumbing infrastructure, so it's no surprise that many homes have lead in their water. Even though current regulations allow for up to 10% of a city's lead samples to be 15 ppb or higher, EPA and CDC both recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. Leading advocacy groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing for the 15 ppb citywide action level to be lowered to 1 ppb.
Here's what the most recent NYC lead data show:
- 10% of the tap water samples had lead concentrations over 11 parts per billion. For reference, this is almost 3x higher than the most recent measurements for Flint's water (4 ppb measured in February 2019).
- 26 of the 487 samples tested for lead were above the 15 parts per billion action level threshold.
- The highest home tested (of the 487) had lead levels of 190 parts per billion.
Long story short, lead contamination is the biggest problem with New York City's drinking water. If you're interested in more details, our Water Nerds have written articles about this in homes and schools.
Chromium 6 In New York City's Drinking Water
Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. The 2017 water quality report for New York City found levels of Chromium 6 as high as 47 parts per trillion. While this concentration is low in comparison to cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh, the levels are roughly twice as high as what California Water Boards claims to "have negligible impact on cancer." Unlike lead (which leaches from lead pipes and plumbing), chromium 6 contaminates the source water itself, so the only way to get rid of it is by using a product that filters chromium 6.
Disinfection Byproducts In New York City's Drinking Water
Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter in the water. From a regulatory standpoint, DBPs are categorized into two classes: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5), but you can easily identify individual chemicals within these classes by looking for "chloro" or "halo" in the chemical's name. Because DBPs are categorized as an "emerging contaminant," regulatory agencies don't have great toxicity data at low concentrations, but high levels of DBPs are linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.
What Actions Can New York City Residents Take?
Although Hydroviv's Water Nerds takes all contaminants into account when designing and building filters for New York City residents, minimizing exposure to lead should be the #1 priority for people in The Big Apple.
For people who do not filter their water, we recommend allowing the faucet to run for 2-5 minutes before drinking or cooking. This allows the water that has been sitting stagnant and accumulating lead for a long period of time to flush out. We also encourage New York City residents to take advantage of the free lead testing program offered by the city. Because lead levels at an individual faucet can vary based on the overall building's water usage for the day, we recommend retesting the water on several occasions to get a more complete picture. For more information about New York City's Free Test program, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/apps/311.