Verizon says its lead tests found no ‘public health risk’ at WSJ sites

Verizon last week announced it conducted lead cable testing in three sites mentioned in the Wall Street Journal’s July 9 investigative report, finding none of the locations had lead-contaminated soil.

The locations in question are Wappinger Falls, New York, Coal Center, Pennsylvania and West Orange, New Jersey. Verizon said it hired “third-party experts” to collect and test “discrete soil samples” as well as estimate average soil lead levels in those areas.

In a letter addressed to New York congressman Pat Ryan, the carrier said the third party used a technique called incremental sampling methodology, which “collects multiple samples across the individual sampling units and then combines, processes, and tests the consolidated soil sample to yield estimates of the average soil lead level.”

New York state government in August reopened a park in Wappinger Falls after it was temporarily closed for lead testing, with the state reporting “no evidence of elevated or widespread lead contamination in the area sampled.”

Verizon said its findings are “consistent” with those of New York’s public health department. At each location Verizon tested in the area, it found the average soil lead level is “lower than the residential soil lead threshold levels of 400 mg/kg set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”

The carrier reported similar findings for Coal Center and West Orange, saying average soil lead levels at those sites were lower than each state’s soil remediation standard.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month released its own test results in West Orange, stating lead in the soil near telco cables poses “no immediate health threats” to nearby residents.

“We provided these testing results to the EPA and state environmental agencies and will continue to work closely with them to determine if further testing is required,” Verizon wrote.

For the EPA’s part, it plans to conduct more independent sampling at Coal Center and West Orange. It’s also coordinating with the state of New York to review the Wappinger Falls soil samples, an agency rep told Fierce this month.

The EPA in July ordered both AT&T and Verizon to provide results of lead inspections they’ve undertaken along with sampling results and data.

AT&T CEO John Stankey told investors this month “there is no public health crisis” to worry about, citing the company’s test results of Lake Tahoe and a Michigan site – both of which showed no signs of lead contamination.

He added AT&T will “continue to work with our regulators who are the authority on these areas like the EPA.”

New Street Research said AT&T and Verizon’s test results, along with the EPA’s ongoing investigation, suggests that “based on what we know now, the cloud over telcos, including [AT&T, Verizon and Frontier], will linger for a long time but the likelihood of material costs to the telcos is low.”