Verizon has told Representative Pat Ryan (D–NY-18) that three sites with allegedly dangerous decades-old telecom cabling encased with lead are safe.

In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon, AT&T and other telcos controlled old lead-sheathed cables on poles, underwater or in the earth that can decay and which, according to the WSJ, may pose a public health risk.

A letter this week from Robert Fisher, Verizon’s senior vice president of federal government relations, claims that tests conducted by third-party experts showed that sites referenced in the WSJ article are not dangerous.

The letter says that Verizon “engaged third-party experts to develop and conduct a protocol to test the levels of lead in the soil tests in the vicinity of the cables highlighted by the Wall Street Journal.”

The findings:

  • Wappingers Falls, NY: Lead levels at the Temple Park site in Ryan’s district were “consistent with the New York State Department of Health’s conclusion that soil lead levels…are generally similar to lead levels in background samples and do not pose a public health risk. At each location tested at Wappingers Falls, the average soil lead level is lower than the residential soil lead threshold levels of 400 mg/kg set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”
  • Coal Center, PA: “(T)he average soil lead level is lower than the soil-to-groundwater remediation standard of 450 mg/kg and soil remediation standard of 500 mg/kg set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.”
  • West Orange NJ: “(A)verage soil lead level is lower than the soil remediation standard of 400 mg/kg set by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.”

The letter did not identify the organization that conducted the tests.

The third-party firm collected and tested discrete soil samples within “a set of soil sampling units.” The firm used the incremental sampling methodology technique to combine, process and test multiple samples across the individual sampling units. This enabled estimates of average soil lead levels to be made.

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