Move Comes in Wake of Flint, MI Water Crisis; Children with Elevated Levels of Lead Contamination Higher than Flint in Trenton; and Newark Schools Finding Dangerous Levels of Lead in Water Supply
(TRENTON) — In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, MI, and wave of reports this month that New Jersey communities and schools face levels of lead in the water greater than what was found in Michigan, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio has introduced legislation that would require regular, consistent testing for lead statewide in New Jersey school drinking water.
Following the public health crisis in Flint, MI, it was reported that 11 municipalities in New Jersey had children with higher levels of lead contamination than children in Flint. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that schools in Newark were found to have significantly elevated levels of lead in the water supply.
Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon), whose district includes the capital city of Trenton, one of the 11 municipalities with lead levels higher than those of Flint, issued the following statement:
“Lead poisoning is insidious because it is cumulative, irreversible and leads to a lifetime of developmental and physical disabilities.
“In the simplest of terms, we need to be doing more to protect New Jersey’s children from lead.
“And, since children spend a majority of the waking hours of their formative years in school, it is imperative that we need to be doing more to ensure that these environments are lead free. But to do that, we need to test, and currently, New Jersey schools and daycare centers aren’t required to check their drinking water for elevated levels of lead.
“That needs to change, and change fast, so that we do not — through ignorance or indifference — cripple an entire generation of New Jerseyans with our inaction.”
Muoio’s bill (A-3539) would 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.
Under the bill, immediate testing would be required 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.
The notification 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.