Kaylie Walters let out a scream.
Her mother, LeeAnne, came running from her bedroom to find the 18-year-old standing in the shower, long clumps of brown hair falling from her head.
During the summer of 2014, according to an article in Mother Jones magazine, LeeAnne noticed her 3-year-old twins breaking out in tiny red bumps and rashes as she gave them baths. Her 14-year-old suffered severe abdominal pains. Her own eyelashes fell out.
LeeAnne Walters was among the first to raise the alarms about lead in the Flint, Mich., water supply. Since that time, hundreds of children suffered the short- and long-term effects of drinking lead-contaminated water.
Depending on the concentration and exposure, lead can lead to issues with blood, the liver and the lungs. Some people experience brittle bones as a result of exposure, while lead absorbed by infants, children and adults can lead to neurological issues, learning disabilities and other long-term health issues.
We haven’t seen the explosive crisis here in New York that they experienced in Flint.
But our state’s ancient water supply system does expose people to lead poisoning through lead pipes and solder in municipal water systems, piping installed in homes and in connection pipes.
In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mailbox is a letter from numerous environmental, local government and labor organizations calling on the state to substantially increase the amount of money it provides to replace aging lead service lines and piping in residential buildings.
The coalition is seeking a $100 million investment through the state’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, which provides funding for pipe replacement, engineering fees, and legal and administration fees to help communities address their problems. The state currently allocates just $20 million to the program..
The groups say the extra funding will only be a start. Conservatively, they say, the problem affects 360,000 municipal water pipes statewide. The cost of replacement likely tops $1 billion, they said.
The city of Amsterdam is among the communities affected by lead in its water.
In August, samples of drinking water in several homes exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lead limits.
But it’s not just homes and municipal water supplies that are affected.
In 2016, school districts in the state completed the first round of testing for lead contamination. Many districts, including several in our area, were forced to replace water fountains, sinks and pipes that contributed to lead exposure.
The threat of lead poisoning through the water supply can’t be understated.
We’ve seen what happens when action isn’t taken. New York needs to heed the call from these groups and invest much more money to make our water supply safe from the ravages of lead.