AT&T and Verizon are among several telecommunication companies that may be facing a huge overhaul due to aging, lead-lined wires in upcoming years. A vast number of outdated wires coated in lead have been found around the country.
Analysts warn these lead-covered wires could pose a health risk to the communities living near them by leaking into the soil and water. Water and soil samples were tested from New Jersey to California and found to have some levels of lead.
One Wall Street Journal article states “Telephone companies may face significant financial exposure down the road that the market has not anticipated. It is difficult to determine the relative exposures of the companies, but given its footprint, it is likely AT&T will have the greatest exposure.”
However, companies are stating their cables follow all federal and state guidelines regarding the use of lead, as reported by Light Reading. Some of these lines are so old no company has a claim over them, at least not anymore.
The Wall Street Journal reports lead-covered telephone lines were found in New Iberia, Louisiana that were put in place by Southern Bell in the 1940s. “Southern Louisiana is a prime example of how old phone cables are contaminating soil and water across the US, according to a Journal investigation.”
That’s before AT&T’s time but as Southern Bell fed into the development of AT&T, the company could still have to pay to remove or replace said lines. AT&T has already faced several lawsuits and has agreed to remove lead-covered cables, at least up to $1.5 million worth.
Federal agencies may get involved with investigations in upcoming years. The EPA, OSHA, and possibly the FCC could participate, though this may take years to get the ball rolling. “It is not clear – and will not be for a very long time – what powers the federal agencies will have to find and/or force remediation and what the policy preferences of those agencies will be.”