AT&T Faces Backlash for Delaying Removal of Toxic Lead Cables in Lake Tahoe


Introduction: In a recent court filing, AT&T defended its decision not to immediately remove lead cables from Lake Tahoe, despite a previous agreement to do so. The company faced a wave of criticism following a report by the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that telecom companies, including AT&T, have left toxic lead cables submerged underwater and buried underground. This article delves into AT&T’s response, the extent of lead-clad cables in its network, and the ongoing debate surrounding their removal.

AT&T’s Standpoint: AT&T refuted the Wall Street Journal’s findings, asserting that the report’s testing methods differed significantly from its own expert analysis. According to AT&T, lead-clad cables constitute only a small fraction of its vast network, making up less than 10% of its copper footprint. The majority of these cables are either buried or placed in conduit, with only a minimal portion running underwater.

Previous Agreement: Despite AT&T’s belief that the lead-clad cables pose no imminent danger, the company had previously agreed in 2021 to remove them from Lake Tahoe, which straddles California and Nevada, as part of a lawsuit settlement. However, a recent court filing argued in favor of retaining the cables to allow for further analysis by independent parties, including the EPA.

Environmental Concerns: The Environmental Defense Fund, a non-governmental organization, recommended that the EPA assess the condition and potential risks associated with the underwater cables. Tom Neltner, the Senior Director of Safer Chemicals at the Environmental Defense Fund, emphasized the importance of thorough investigation before making any decisions regarding the cables’ removal.

AT&T’s Critique of the Wall Street Journal’s Testing: AT&T raised concerns about the objectivity of the Wall Street Journal’s testing, claiming that it was funded by the Environmental Defense Fund and targeted specific sites to obtain desired results. However, Neltner from the Environmental Defense Fund refuted these claims, stating that their goal was to use scientifically sound principles to assess the health risks posed by lead-clad cables.

Implications and Future Steps: The controversy surrounding the delayed removal of lead cables in Lake Tahoe remains unresolved. A status conference is scheduled to address the issue further. Both the EPA and the Wall Street Journal have yet to respond to the recent developments.

Conclusion: AT&T’s decision not to immediately remove lead-clad cables from Lake Tahoe has sparked significant public debate and scrutiny. With environmental concerns and conflicting reports, the fate of these cables remains uncertain. As the situation unfolds, it is crucial for objective scientific evidence to guide any decisions regarding their removal and its potential impact on Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem.

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