NYC Parks

Testing for Lead in 3,500+ Drinking Water Fountains


In response to New York City then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2019 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.

A Matter of Public Health

NYC Parks patrons use public drinking water fountains throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Determining water from each fountain meets state and federal standards for drinking is a critical public health and safety measure. Testing was conducted on an expedited schedule, starting May 2019. Woodard & Curran analyzed the results and compiled a thorough report with recommendations to NYC Parks, 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. By implementing these measures, NYC Parks will ensure its patrons continually have access to quality drinking water.

GIS technology leveraged to expedite schedule

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. utility’s resources—water, human, financial, and technological—can be use most effectively. Our approach to asset management uses those four key factors to understand how a utility operates, and applies best management practices to set and achieve goals through continuous improvement.

A Walk in the Park

Field staff navigated more than 900 parks to test all exterior drinking water fountains.



Fountains Tested

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.

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[LeadFreeNYC] is a roadmap to identify and eradicate lead health risks at their source, no matter how small. We are toughening standards, adding resources and ratcheting up the intensity of every agency’s response to lead.

Bill de Blasio Former Mayor New York City
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