The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) continues to closely review and act on the issues
raised in the Wall Street Journal’s
investigation of lead covered telecom cables across the U.S. As part of this
work, EPA conducted soil lead sampling in an area near some telecom cables in
West Orange, NJ on August 1, 2023. EPA’s scientific review of the data and
current conditions in the area indicate that there are no immediate threats to
the health of people nearby.
results do show that some soil samples have lead concentrations above an EPA
screening level of 400 parts per million. All areas tested were primarily from
areas covered with grass. Grass provides a natural barrier to reduce exposure
and a good cover to prevent soil dust from being easily kicked up. EPA’s
assessment of the data takes into account that most of the areas sampled are
covered with grass and are not where children gather for long periods of time.
established a national working group to consider next steps to ensure the
public remains safe. These steps may include further analyses in West Orange to
better understand if the cables have released and continue to release lead. Any
future actions will be done in coordination with state and local leaders, and
the public will remain informed of any actions taken.
is no safe level of lead exposure. Young children are particularly at risk for
health effects from exposure to lead, and EPA will take all actions within its
authorities to ensure children are safe and protected from any potential
releasing this sampling data because we value full transparency. We have shared
the sampling data and are coordinating closely with the town of West Orange,
County of Essex, the school administration and state environmental and health
addition to sampling, EPA has required major telecom companies to provide us
with information needed to evaluate the nature and extent of releases or
threatened releases of lead from telecommunications cables and equipment,
including results of inspections the companies have undertaken, as well as sampling
results and data.
on EPA Sampling Effort
uses screening-level sampling to initially characterize soil lead
concentrations. EPA sampled soil in publicly accessible areas directly
underneath lead-covered telecom cables between the road and the sidewalk and in
front of the Gregory Elementary School, on the opposite side of the street from
the cables. EPA collected 192 samples underneath the cables across the street
from the school at 30-foot intervals and at three different depths. EPA also took 51 samples in front of the
school at 100-foot intervals at the same three depths and were used to
characterize lead concentrations.
In addition to sending the samples to be analyzed by a laboratory,
EPA also took XRF readings of each sample taken. XRF is a handheld instrument
that serves as a screening tool to estimate lead levels. Quality assured lab analyzed results are
considered more accurate. In this case, the XRF readings generally corresponded
with the lab results.