It’s been nearly 20 years since the plumbing business in New York City was privatized, and the city’s plumbing supply chain is still reeling.
It was an eventful decade.
New York’s plumbing industry had gone through a seismic shift, from one of the most-competitive markets in the nation to one of its poorest.
New Yorkers were forced to pay higher rates, more expensive treatments, and less care when they had plumbing problems, and that led to higher rates of hospitalizations and even deaths.
New Jersey privatized its plumbing industry in 2001, and by 2003, the New York State Department of Health was cracking down on unsafe and unhygienic conditions in the state’s public water supply, including unsafe levels of lead, mercury, arsenic, and PCBs.
The Department of Public Health was under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued that New York was breaking the law by requiring the state to provide safe water supplies to residents, which they deemed too risky.
In 2004, the city of New York, which had the second-highest lead contamination rate in the country, began a series of “community water quality” initiatives aimed at reducing lead exposure in public water supplies, which began in January 2005.
In February, the state announced it was scrapping the requirement that New Yorkers drink tap water that contained lead levels above a certain threshold.
By February 2010, New York state had shut down its entire public water system, which included nearly all of the state water distribution system, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took over as the state was privatizing the citys water supply.
New Orleans became the first city in the United States to privatize its water system in 2000.
As New York privatized and shut down, the number of public water systems in New Orleans declined from 12,000 in 2000 to less than 1,000.
In 2005, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law requiring that water systems be inspected every three years to see if their systems had elevated lead levels.
In 2006, the federal government started requiring New Orleans to meet its lead limits, which took effect in March 2007.
In January 2009, the City of New Orleans enacted a new water quality law that made the city one of only a few that had to comply with the federal requirements.
In 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to New Orleans that its drinking water could contain high levels of high-lead water.
In March 2011, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began requiring the City to submit an annual report to the New Orleans Department of Planning and Zoning about the city-wide lead level of public drinking water, which was one of seven such reports it required every three to five years.
In September 2011, a federal judge struck down the city and New Orleans’ water standards, saying that the city had not complied with the law that the Department had adopted.
The state and the feds agreed in December 2011 to a partial settlement that allowed the city to resume providing water to residents.
In December 2012, New Orleans was awarded a $13.9 million settlement from HUD and the state of New Mexico, and it began installing lead testing in all of its drinking and wastewater systems.
In October 2012, HUD began requiring New York residents to have their drinking water tested for lead at their tap.
In November 2012, the EPA issued a federal consent decree allowing the city back into compliance with the lead regulations.
In June 2013, the government approved the city over New Orleans for another $13 million to replace the pipes that connect New York and New Jersey public water plants.
New Brunswick, New Jersey, began implementing its water supply standards in 2011, and in January 2013, New Brunswick announced that it had reduced its lead levels by 50 percent.
In July 2013, EPA finalized its proposed rule for New Jersey that would require water systems to have a lead test every three months, but that the agency had to implement a new rule to ensure that all public water infrastructure had the lead standards in place.
In August 2013, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that New Jersey would be joining the federal program, and began enforcing the lead limits.
In May 2014, New London, Connecticut, became the second city in New Jersey to privatized water, joining the city that privatized it in 2002.
It took over a water distribution network that served almost half of the city, and its water treatment plants were built to meet the lead-based standards.
In April 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that its lead standards would be expanded to include municipal water systems, and as a result, New Haven, Connecticut will join the federal pilot program.
In 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all municipal water supply systems would have to meet lead levels, and on January 4, 2020, the mayor of New Haven signed an order establishing a lead testing program for all water systems.
By December 2020, all New Haven municipal water facilities had met the lead requirements, and more than 40