(TRENTON) – A two-bill Assembly Democratic package focused on protecting students and the environment from lead exposure in water was released by the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday.
One bill (A-2697), sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Nancy Pinkin, would require each public water system in New Jersey to compile and report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) an inventory of lead service lines in use in its distribution system.
“We all know the dangers of water tainted by lead,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “The long term negative effects of drinking lead-tainted water can be absolutely devastating, and it is our responsibility to take all the measures necessary to limit the amount of lead in our drinking water for the sakes of all of our constituents, especially our children.”
Under the bill, a public water system would be required to make its lead service line inventory available to state and local government officials, as well as to residents served by the public water system upon request.
The DEP would also be required to develop and publish a guidance document on its website, based on industry best practices, to assist public water systems in compiling the lead service line inventories.
Within 24 months of the effective date of the bill, the DEP would be required to submit a report to the governor and legislature assessing the extent of lead service lines in New Jersey and recommending new policies to address the public health hazards posed by lead service lines.
The second bill (A-3373), sponsored by Assembly Members Herb Conaway, Nancy Pinkin, Raj Mukherji and Joe Danielsen would require the DEP to develop and adopt a statewide plan to reduce public exposure to lead in the environment within 1 year of the effective date of the bill.
The DEP would be required to use existing soil testing, public water supply and private well testing results, as well as any other relevant information it may have in preparing the plan.
“Lead-contaminated water is an issue we can and must stop,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Our children are at great risk if we don’t clean up our soil and water systems.”
The DEP would also be required to designate those geographic areas where lead in soils or drinking water poses the greatest danger of exposure to the public and develop a public education program to ensure the widespread dissemination of information concerning the health risks posed by lead exposure and measures that may be taken to minimize the risks.
“We have seen the tragedies that have occurred in places like Flint, Michigan,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “We cannot—and will not—allow this heartbreak to happen in our home state.”
“We must deal with this crisis in a pragmatic manner so we can effectively clean up our water,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Millions of our residents rely upon our water systems for clean drinking water, and it goes without saying that it is our job to ensure that our drinking water is safe.”
“We must take a top-down, statewide approach to ensure that all of our drinking water is free from lead contamination,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “Water is the most basic necessity of life; it is our responsibility to provide clean water to our residents.”
The bill was initially released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on June 14 and now moves to the Speaker’s desk awaiting further action.