NYC Parks: Testing for Lead in Drinking Water Fountains

In response to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Lead Free NYC initiative, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) retained Woodard & Curran to identify sources of lead in approximately 3,500 interior and exterior public drinking water fountains. The initial proposal estimated eight weeks for testing. When work started in the first week of May 2019, the project was expedited to wrap testing within five weeks.

Fountains tested are used widely by NYC Parks patrons during the spring, summer, and fall. Determining water is within state and federal standards for drinking is an important public safety measure. Additionally, Woodard & Curran provided a thorough report with recommendations to NYC Parks on maintaining quality drinking water by outlining protocol for opening exterior fountains after a harsh Northeast winter, plans for regular maintenance and repairs, system flushing, and proper closing of exterior fountains in the fall. These measures will aid NYC Parks in continually providing adequate quality drinking water for its patrons. 

 GIS Technology Integral to Success

NYC Parks provided Woodard & Curran with robust GIS data, which provided locations and critical information about all exterior water fountains. The existing data was utilized to group fountain sites, organize workflow, and improve efficiency. Up to six teams were dispatched six days a week to cover nearly 900 public parks across the city’s five boroughs.

Field staff drew and tested water samples in accordance with New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) recommendations. Each fountain was cordoned off for at least 8 to 18 hours in order to take an initial sample after stagnation. Then, a second sample of a 30-second to 1-minute flush was collected. Once the approximately 3,000 exterior fountains had been tested, teams went indoors to identify about 500 interior fountains, sample, and record data to populate non-existing GIS data on interior drinking water fountains. 

Woodard & Curran supplied mobile devices to each field team and implemented GIS-compatible applications Collector and Survey 123 to track real-time progress and results reporting. Incoming data was provided to NYC Parks, which was made publicly available through an interactive map on the department’s website

Addressing the Results

As initial results were received, Woodard & Curran coordinated with NYC Parks and project stakeholders to implement corrective measures and retest locations that required remediation. If teams encountered fountains that were damaged or not functioning, the information was also conveyed to NYC Parks to address repairs as needed.

Our team prepared a final report with findings and recommendations, including future monitoring, activation protocols, infrastructure assessments, and reporting.


New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
New York City, NY


Senior Client Manager
Government & Institutional