An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a comprehensive three-bill package sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. designed to help New Jersey identify, address and minimize the exposure to lead in water and soil statewide.
“Given the finite resources of the state of New Jersey, it is important for us to have a data-driven, science-based plan to evaluate the priorities for lead remediation,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “If enacted these bills would help the state guard against the hazards and hysteria that we saw unfold in Flint Michigan throughout their water quality crisis.”
Conaway’s bill package includes:
· A-4304: Would require the departments of Environmental Protection (DEP), Community Affairs (DCA), and Health (DEH) to work together to establish a records and information management system concerning the results of any test of lead levels in soils conducted and reported to any state or local environmental or health department or agency. DEP would also be required to compile and make the records available on its website. The information in the system would be required to include the address and lot and block number where the soil test was conducted, the results of the soil testing, any action taken to remediate the property, and any other information deemed to be relevant.
· A-4305: Would require that sales contracts for individual lots of residential property include a requirement for the seller to conduct a soil test to determine lead content, the results of which would be reported to the buyer, seller and DEP. The requirement only applies to the sale of individual lots of at least 2,500 square feet of pervious outdoor space, and so long as the seller is not a board of education, county, municipality, or other agency derived thereunder.
· A-4306: Would require DEP to develop and adopt a statewide plan to reduce public exposure to lead in the environment, in part by using existing soil testing results from site remediations that have been submitted to the department, as well as public water supply and private well testing results and any other relevant information it may have, in preparing the plan and any updates. DEP would be required to designate those geographic areas where lead in soils or drinking water poses the greatest danger of exposure to the public, identify public funding that may be used to address the risks of exposure and prioritize the expenditure of funds to remediate soil or drinking water supplies to minimize those risks. The bill would also require DEP to develop a public education program concerning the health risks posed by lead exposure and measures that may be taken to minimize the risks.
“By expanding the collection of data to include lead in residential soils, we can make sure the state has a better handle on how to prioritize resources to respond to environmental contaminants while also providing peace of mind to homeowners whose soil is safe,” added Conaway. “Currently, there are several government agencies that carry out lead and other heavy metal testing of soils. However, this information is not consolidated. By mandating the sharing, consolidation and reporting of this information, the state would obtain a more valuable data set to understand what communities are most threatened by lead contamination.”
The bill package was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.