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Muoio Introduces Legislation Requiring Lead Testing of Drinking Water at New Jersey Child Care Centers

Legislation Will Create Comprehensive Safety Net When Coupled with Other Bill to Test Drinking Water in All Public & Private Schools

Continuing her commitment to help prevent lead poisoning in New Jersey children, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio has introduced legislation that would require child care centers throughout New Jersey to be tested for lead in drinking water.

The bill, when coupled with Muoio’s other legislation (A-3539) that would require testing and remediation of lead in all public and private school water supplies, would create a comprehensive safety net to help protect developing children throughout New Jersey from the dangers of lead exposure.

“Children in child care centers are in the most fundamental stages of development and, consequently, the most susceptible to the harmful effects of lead,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This bill is part of our full-court press to ensure the early detection, prevention and remediation of lead in our environment so that we can protect more children from the irreversible and life-altering consequences.”

Muoio has been at the forefront of the fight to protect New Jersey children from lead exposure, particularly since reports surfaced that Trenton, which she represents, is one of 11 municipalities in New Jersey with children that have higher levels of lead contamination than children in Flint, Michigan. She also has sponsored legislation (A-3611) that would require lead inspections during all home sales and rental turnovers and another bill (A-3411) that would boost the state’s response to elevated lead levels in children.

Building on that approach, her new bill would require child care centers to test for and remediate lead in drinking water and disclose their test results.

Under the bill, every child care center would be required to undertake periodic testing for the presence of lead in each drinking water outlet used by the child care center in the building where the facility is located. The tests must be conducted by a certified laboratory in accordance with the sampling and testing methods specified in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) technical guidance for reducing lead in drinking water at child care centers, or more protective technical guidance that may be issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The initial tests must be conducted no later than 90 days after the effective date of the bill, and subsequent tests would be conducted every five years thereafter, unless the DEP determines, on a case-by-case basis, that more or less frequent testing is necessary or sufficient to protect the public health.

If testing reveals an elevated lead level at a drinking water outlet, the child care center would be required to immediately shut or close off access to that outlet and report the test results to the DEP and immediately notify parents and child care center employees directly.

The child care center and the owner of the building in which it is located, in consultation with the DEP, would be required to conduct follow-up testing to determine the source of the lead, and take appropriate remedial measures to ensure that children are not exposed to water with an elevated lead level and have access to free, fresh and clean drinking water.

Remedial measures may include permanently shutting or closing off access to the drinking water outlet, providing an alternative source of water, manual or automatic flushing, installing and maintaining a filter, and replacing outlets, plumbing, or service lines contributing to the elevated lead level.

Under the bill, each child care center would be required to maintain the complete results of the testing and information on any measures being taken to remediate a drinking water outlet. The DEP would have the authority to inspect this information during regular business hours and without prior notice. Child care centers also would be required to post a summary of this information in a conspicuous location near the entrance of the child care center, and notify parents, guardians and employees of the availability of the information.

Nothing in the bill would prevent a child care center from conducting more frequent testing than required by the bill. The testing requirements would not apply to a child care center that is considered a public water system under federal law and meets the applicable standards for lead in drinking water supplied by public water systems.

The bill would require the DEP, within 30 days after the effective date of the bill, to provide each child care center with the EPA’s technical guidance for reducing lead in drinking water at child care centers, a summary of the sampling and testing methods contained in the technical guidance, a list of each laboratory in the state certified to conduct lead testing and any other information the DEP deems relevant.