BERGENFIELD, NJ (Bergen County) – Governor Phil Murphy and Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced Monday several initiatives to strengthen the state’s response to lead testing and the remediation of elevated lead levels in drinking water in New Jersey schools to ensure all students have access to clean, safe water.
The Administration will implement a three-pronged approach to enhance key lead testing and remediation regulations and policies. The New Jersey Department of Education will strengthen its Safe Drinking Water regulations to require schools to test for lead every three years, rather than every six years, in order to ensure timely detection of elevated lead levels. These regulations will also include enhanced enforcement measures against non-compliant school entities, such as public reporting of districts that are out of compliance, penalties imposed during the district’s NJQSAC review, and investigation by the Department’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance.
To enhance transparency of this new testing protocol, the New Jersey Department of Education will also create and host a centralized, state-managed database complete with lead testing results and information from all school districts. Additionally, the Administration will prioritize remediation projects for districts with lead action level exceedances using $100 million in voter-approved bond funding for school water infrastructure improvement projects through the Securing Our Children Future Bond Act.
“New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure has ignited a statewide discussion regarding the best path forward to protect residents from the dangers of lead,” said Governor Murphy. “By mobilizing the state’s resources to incorporate rigorous testing standards, modernize reporting mechanisms, and repair critical water infrastructure, we are strengthening our efforts to overcome a statewide challenge that has been building over many decades. My Administration is working with all levels of government and across several departments to ensure that New Jersey’s students, educators, and residents have access to clean, safe drinking water for generations to come.”
“Every child deserves to drink water that’s free of lead, and every parent deserves to know if their child’s school has lead in their pipes, sinks, or water fountains. We’re here to announce steps to give parents and communities easy-to-access and up-to-date information on their child’s school’s water. It’s a level of transparency many of us have been calling for, for years now,” said U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “Last Congress, a key piece of my bipartisan Lead-Free Schools Act was enacted into law, creating a targeted pilot program with existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide with lead in their water. And right now, I’m working on new federal legislation to claw the resources back to New Jersey, from the Moocher States, needed to help our schools identify and replace all lead pipes — and to promote transparency by making the results accessible to families online.”
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of the 1.4 million children in our schools,” said New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “We stand committed to amplifying our efforts, providing clear and understandable information, and giving parents the additional resources they need to feel secure that their children are attending school in a safe learning environment.”
“I commend Governor Murphy, Commissioner Repollet and our legislators for continuing to take steps that improve the safety of children in schools,” said Catherine R. McCabe, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “Together, we can strengthen the policies and regulations necessary to reduce the risk that lead poses to drinking water at schools.”
“Lead in our drinking water is a public health concern that we must act to address immediately,” said Senator Joseph Lagana. “Along with District 38 Assembly Members Swain and Tully, I have introduced legislation to increase transparency around water quality and help mobilize remediation measures in the event of an exceedance. It is necessary to work with all levels of government on this issue and the full commitment of the Administration and Legislative Leadership will greatly aide the fight to ensure our families have access to clean water.”
“As the Mayor of Fair Lawn, I tackled contaminated water issues and was able to make positive changes for our residents,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain. “Now as an Assemblywoman, I am taking the fight to lead in our drinking water. No child should be at risk of damaging their health when they drink water at school and I am proud to be a sponsor of legislation to help protect our kids.”
“Since my days in Congressman Gottheimer’s office, I have led the charge against lead in school drinking water, calling for increased transparency around testing results,” said Assemblyman Christopher Tully. “Now I’m sponsoring a bill package that that would increase regulation and oversight of schools, daycares, water systems and landlords, ensure that water system customers, schools and daycare centers, and the proper State and local authorities are quickly notified of exceedances, and make it easier for towns to replace lead service lines.”