City: Drinking water is safe, free lead testing available in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS -- The city of New Orleans says the drinking water here is safe.

Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant assured the City Council as much when he appeared before them today.

He was responding to a report from the New Orleans Inspector General's Office that said construction on pipes throughout the city could elevate the risk of lead in the drinking water.

The city is replacing lead service lines as part of the major infrastructure repairs currently underway to update the city's aging streets and water system.

According to the IG's report, replacing-- or even "disturbing" those pipes-- "can cause spikes in lead levels at the tap," putting residents across the city in jeopardy. The report also said the city is not doing enough to warn and educate its residents about the potential risks.

Grant countered today that although lead is a concern, the Sewerage and Water Board monitors levels very closely.

In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested the drinking water in 107 homes. Of those, two homes had high enough lead levels to take action. Most of the other homes had lead levels that were much lower than the maximum lead allowed, Grant said.

He also said the Sewerage and Water Board provides free lead testing. Call them during business hours at 504-529-2837 for more information.