This week Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey has discovered lead levels in drinking water that exceed the federal action level of 15 part per billion. The highest level recorded was 1,206 parts per billion. Given the alarming results of their testing, the hospital has started the process of trying to isolate the source of contamination, which could be in pipes, faucet fixtures, or even lead solder used on the pipes and fixtures, as they continue to operate the facility using bottled and tank water throughout the facility. The water source has been ruled out as a source for the water contamination.
Lead in drinking water has been in the news for quite some time now. The alarming situation in Flint, MI made most states and cities take a closer look at the quality of the drinking water being consumed by the public and the testing procedures to ensure public safety. The State of New Jersey made quick work of turning their attention to a sector most at risk for potential exposure to lead-school aged children. In July of 2016, The New Jersey Board of Education issued immediate requirements to test for lead in drinking water for all schools throughout the State. Now that the process for the school systems is fully in place, New Jersey looked to the next sector of vulnerable citizens who could be adversely affected by the exposure to lead in drinking water—those in healthcare and assisted-living facilities.
A new bill was introduced to the NJ State Senate that would mandate that all healthcare facilities conduct testing and remediate lead in drinking water. The bill would require the owner or operator of a healthcare facility to undertake periodic testing of each drinking water outlet in the facility for the presence of lead. Under the proposed bill, if results show an elevated lead level at any drinking water outlet about 15 parts per billion, the healthcare facility would be required to turn off the outlet and take the appropriate actions to contain and remediate.
Besides children, elderly and ill persons can adversely be affected most by any lead contamination. Lead contamination can cause or exacerbate existing conditions in the sick and elderly patients, making lead testing and remediation of the utmost importance in these facilities. Healthcare facilities that would be required to test for lead in drinking water include general hospitals, special hospitals, mental hospitals, public health centers, diagnostic centers, treatment centers, rehabilitation centers, extended-care facilities, skilled nursing homes, nursing homes, intermediate-care facilities, tuberculosis hospitals, chronic disease hospitals, maternity hospitals, outpatient clinics, dispensaries, home healthcare agencies, residential healthcare facilities, dementia care homes, and bioanalytical laboratories.
It is widely known that long-term exposure to lead can affect the nervous system and can also lead to more serious damage to kidneys and the brain, which may result in death.
The proposed bill would require initial testing to be done within 90 days after the effective date of the law and subsequent testing to be conducted every five years thereafter. In the event that sampling indicates elevated lead levels at a drinking water outlet, then immediate actions must be taken to remediate the issue. Potential options for remediation include permanently shutting off the drinking water outlet, providing alternative sources of water, manual or automatic flushing of the drinking water outlet, installing and maintaining filters, or repairing and replacing drinking water outlets, plumbing, or services lines contributing to elevated lead levels.
Matt Genna is the Health and Safety Project Manager at Partner Engineering and Science, Inc. To date, Partner has assisted 11 school districts and 46 individual educational facilities with identifying required outlets, lead-in-drinking water testing, developing required Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPP) to ensure proper management of lead in drinking water and compliance with State requirements.
Mr. Genna is responsible for the education and training of municipal, school, automotive, manufacturing, and industrial employees in various regulations such as Hazard Communication, Bloodborne Pathogens, Lock out/Tag out, Confined Space Awareness, and Asbestos Awareness. Additionally, he is responsible for AHERA 6-month Periodic Surveillance, AHERA 3-year asbestos Re-Inspections in schools throughout New Jersey, and sampling drinking water for lead content.
Mr. Genna can be contacted via email at [email protected] or via phone at 732-380-1700 x1271.