City Council Passes Legislation on Lead Testing and Reporting Requirements
The New York City Council recently passed a package of lead safety bills that’s intended to update and strengthen the city’s lead laws, setting some of the highest standards in the country. The bills include new guidelines for testing for lead in day care centers, testing for lead in water, lowering the maximum allowable levels of lead dust in apartments, and enhancing notification and reporting requirements. The package of legislation also mandates the provision of certain information to the public and outreach programming on lead exposure and city services.
Various tenant advocate groups, legal organizations, and environmental groups had been working with the City Council to strengthen existing lead laws and expand the reach of the laws’ protection. According to “Lead Loopholes,” a report issued by these groups in September 2018, despite already having one of the strongest lead laws in the country, New York City’s regulators haven’t taken enforcement action against any owner for failing to conduct annual lead inspections in the 14 years since the city passed Local Law 1.
Local Law 1 aimed to end lead poisoning in New York City by 2010, but more than 61,000 children under 6 have had elevated blood lead levels since 2010, according to the report, which contains multiple specific examples of New York failing to take enforcement action against negligent owners. According to the most recent Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) data, 97 percent of the children found to be lead poisoned since the beginning of 2010 resided in private dwellings.
The City Council expanded lead paint testing requirements for multiple types of sites at which children are at especially high risk for lead exposure. The new laws will require investigation and remediation by DOHMH and by individual landlords for lead hazards in spaces where children routinely spend 10 or more hours a week.
The Council also voted to expand the reporting and auditing requirements relating to the enforcement of the city’s existing lead laws. The new laws will require DOHMH to put in place a “linguistically and culturally competent” outreach and education campaign to increase awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention. Additionally, the laws will require that local community boards, relevant civic organizations, local school superintendents, and the Council be notified if soil contaminants are found in a city development project.
The mayor is expected to sign the bills into law.
Breakdown of New Laws
The lead safety legislative package includes the following laws:
Reducing lead reference levels. Introduction 865, sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson:
- Reduces the city’s blood lead reference level to 5 mcg/dL;
- Reduces the city’s lead paint definition from 1 milligram per square centimeter (mg/cm2) of lead or greater to 0.5 mg/cm2 for x-ray fluorescence analyzer (XRF) testing, and from 0.5 percent metallic lead content to 0.25 percent for lab paint chip sample analysis; and
- Reduces the lead dust definition from 40 micrograms per square foot (mcg/f2) to 10mcg/f2 for floors, from 250mcg/f2 to 50mcg/f2 for windowsills, and from 400 mcg/f2 to 100mcg/f2 for window wells. As of June 1, 2021, the lead dust definition will be lowered to 5 mcg/f2 for floors, 40 mcg/f2 for window sills, and remain 100 mcg/f2 for window wells.
Testing day care facilities for lead-based paint. Introduction 920, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, extends current requirements for day care facilities operating in structures erected before Jan. 1, 1978, to other facilities serving children under 6, including preschools, nursery schools, and, where applicable, elementary schools.
Requiring first-draw samples when testing for lead in water. Introduction 871, sponsored by Council Member Joseph Borelli, requires that any testing of water from a fixture or other source for lead that’s required by law includes a first-draw sample from that source. If a water lead action level is established by federal, state, or local law or rule that requires new sampling requirements, this legislation allows DOHMH to adopt new sampling requirements by rule.
Expanding reporting requirements. Introduction 918, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, expands reporting requirements under the city’s existing lead laws for DOHMH and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The legislation will also strengthen the city’s auditing of landlords to ensure their compliance with the requirements under the city’s lead laws.
Requiring DOHMH investigation where children with elevated blood levels visit. Introduction 464, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, requires DOHMH to investigate potential sources of elevated blood lead levels in children, including the inspection of any dwelling where a child with an elevated blood lead level spends 10 or more hours per week. This law will also add to existing lead hazard remediation requirements for facilities providing day care services, requiring them to post notices describing any order to remediate a lead hazard and to remediate the hazard within 21 days.
Finally, building owners will be required to investigate and remediate lead hazards where a child routinely spends 10 or more hours per week within a dwelling unit. This legislation will protect children by expanding the number of apartments that landlords are required to inspect and remediate under the city’s lead law and is not intended to supersede any existing duty of care that landlords owe their tenants or their families.
Requiring lead poisoning prevention education and outreach. Introduction 881, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, requires DOHMH to establish and implement an education and outreach program to increase awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention. The law will also require the program to include linguistically and culturally competent education and outreach tailored to limited English proficient individuals and specific immigrant populations. To achieve this end, measures identified in the law include language assistance tools, production of education materials, community outreach, and advertisements in multiple public locations.
Requiring city agencies provide information related to lead hazards to parents. Introduction 1117, sponsored by Council Member Laurie Cumbo, requires certain city agencies to provide materials describing building owners’ responsibilities under the city’s lead laws, including their duty to remediate all lead-based paint hazards upon turnover of any dwelling unit, to parents or guardians of a child under 7 years of age, when such parents or guardians seek services from those agencies. The agencies are also required to inform parents or guardians seeking services that they can obtain, without cost or payment, an inspection of their dwelling unit for peeling paint, a deteriorated subsurface, or an underlying defect by calling 311, and a lead testing kit for drinking water from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Requiring notice be given when contaminants are found in the soil. Introduction 1063, sponsored by Council Member Robert Holden, requires notice to the community board and to the council member within five business days of discovering or becoming aware of a hazardous level of lead in soil as a result of an environmental subsurface investigation in any city development project.
Requiring DEP to make available a map with all known lead water service lines. Introduction 709, sponsored by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, requires DEP to provide, on the city’s website, an interactive map with information regarding the known lead water service lines and to make best efforts to identify all lead water service lines, including privately owned service lines. It also requires the department to provide information to users about lead contamination prevention, lead water test kits, and how to replace lead service lines. The department must replace any known lead water service lines that are owned by the department no later than Dec. 31, 2025.
Thereafter the department must provide to the City Council and the mayor an annual report on the locations of all known lead water service lines, efforts underway to replace lead water supply mains and service lines, and the status of public outreach and education efforts on the prevention of lead contamination.
Requiring agencies to inform parents of lead testing services. Introduction 877, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, requires certain city agencies to provide a pamphlet or other materials regarding lead hazards, including information on how to obtain a blood lead screening, to the parents or guardians of a child under 7 years of age when such parents or guardians seek a service from the agencies.