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Benson, Muoio & Conaway Bill to Require Health Care Facilities to Test for Lead in Drinking Water Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Muoio and Herb Conaway to require care facilities to test for and remediate lead in drinking water was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Monday.

“According to the DEP, high levels of lead were recently detected in a hospital in Englewood as well as a medical center in Morristown last February,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “This raises concerns for all health care facilities and should implore the state to implement mandatory lead testing requirements for these facilities.”

“Studies have shown that there is no safe level of lead in the blood, and it is crucial that we test public facilities to ensure our water infrastructure is not poisoning the public, particularly in facilities that serve some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Muoio (D-Mercer, Hunterdon.

Under the bill (A-4139), the owner or operator of a health care facility would be required to perform periodic testing of each drinking water outlet in the facility for the presence of lead. Each test for lead would be conducted by a laboratory certified for this purpose by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in accordance with the sampling and testing methods specified by the commissioner.

“Lead testing should be a priority for health care facilities for the safety of patients and staff,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Water used for washing, cleaning and bathing is safe for patients since lead cannot be absorbed through skin. However, any water used for consumption, or food preparation should regularly be tested and lead remediated immediately if discovered.”

The specifies that the initial test would be conducted no later than 90 days after the effective date of the bill, and subsequent testing would be conducted every five years thereafter, unless the commissioner determines, on case-by-case basis, that a greater or lesser frequency of testing is necessary or sufficient.

If testing reveals an elevated lead level at a drinking water outlet, the health care facility would be required to immediately shut or close off access to that outlet and take appropriate remedial measures to ensures that patients, staff and visitors to the health care facility are not exposed to drinking water with an elevated lead level and have access to clean and safe drinking water at the facility.

The bill also provides that each health care facility would be required to submit to the Department Environmental Protection and the Department of Health Information on its testing activities, maintain copies of that information in a suitable location and on its internet website, if applicable, and post a summary of the test results and information on the availability of the complete test results in the area of each major entrance and in each admitting room in the health care facility.

The measure will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.