Uh-oh. After finding “elevated” levels of lead in New York City tap water, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection is warning New Yorkers to run their faucet for 30 seconds before drinking it, cooking it, or feeding it to their babies. While the DEP says the lead levels are “too small to pose health risks,” the “Run Your Tap” campaign does sound like a great excuse for lazy slobs to waste water, doesn’t it?
The DEP says the city’s water supply is “virtually lead-free,” and that the lead traces are probably from pipes and fixtures in older buildings
In a statement, City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley called water “the healthiest of all beverages,” and said the city “encourage[s] people to drink tap water,” but that his department (along with the DEP) will investigate and monitor the rise in lead levels. He pointed out that children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to the hazards of lead exposure, which usually involves lead-based paint, not water.
A spokesman for the DEP hasn’t responded yet to an inquiry about exactly how much water the city will waste with eight million people running their taps for 30 seconds every six hours (although the department’s press release calls it a “simple and inexpensive measure” that “usually uses only a few gallons of water” and “if done consistently, would cost roughly $1 per month”).
We decided to test this — using an extremely unscientific methodology — so we timed how long it took to fill a 20 ounce water bottle. It took about three seconds. Which means running our faucet for half a minute could fill 10 of those bottles — the equivalent of almost 4.7 gallons.
Which means, assuming optimum water-pressure levels, if eight million New Yorkers were running their taps for 30 seconds a day and every six hours, the city would be dumping nearly 150,400,000 gallons of water per day.
The city suggests reducing costs by filling and setting aside several bottles of water at a time or using “the first run of water for plants, household cleaning, or for other purposes that do not involve cooking and drinking.” Which makes sense, until you start worrying about those BPA-laden plastic bottles leaking chemicals into your “healthiest of beverages.”