Measure Sponsored by Muoio, Chiaravalloti, Gusciora, Caputo, Mukherji, Johnson, and Sumter
(TRENTON) – The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Reed Gusciora, Ralph Caputo, Raj Mukherji, Gordon Johnson, and Shavonda Sumter to require that all public and non-public schools in the state conduct periodic, uniform testing for lead in the drinking water supply, utilizing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, which are significantly stricter than the state’s.
“It’s time to raise the bar on lead testing in the state,” said Muoio (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Federal guidelines are stricter and more comprehensive than the state’s. We must ensure the safety of our children in our schools by doing all we can to prevent unsafe lead levels in our water.”
“Unprecedented lead levels found in schools and towns across the country has sounded the alarm for many, especially here in New Jersey,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Regular lead testing is the key to maintaining a healthy school environment from this point on.”
The bill (A-3539) would require immediate testing upon the bill’s enactment. Additional testing would then occur at least once every five years. If elevated levels of lead are found during any test, the school must immediately stop using the water supply, notify parents, teachers and school administrators, contact the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and begin remediation measures.
“This is proactive legislation that aims to keep children safe from potential lead exposure,” said Gusciora (D- Mercer, Hunterdon). “The only way to maintain safety and quality of schools’ drinking water is to periodically test for it.”
“Many states have taken steps to prevent and combat lead in school drinking water by enacting legislation very similar to do,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “This legislation is critical to ensuring safe lead levels in a school environment.”
“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our children,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Testing drinking water in schools for lead should be a standard practice for all schools.”
“Schools test their fire alarms and run fire drills to ensure safety. Lead testing is equally as important,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Mandatory lead testing will keep our children safer in the long run.”
“Mandatory testing for lead is the best place to begin addressing contaminants in our schools’ drinking water,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The Flint water crisis, high-levels of lead found in Newark schools and other incidents that have occurred demand that we take long-term actions to strengthen testing, remediation and reporting requirements.”
The notification, under the bill, would include a summary of the test results, a description of the remediation actions being taken, contact information for the school in question and, if necessary, information on how to access blood level testing.
All schools would be required to keep two copies of the tests: one on file with the DEP and one in their administrative offices.
The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration. It was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee in April.