New Report Reveals Lead Present in Schools Statewide
Following the release of a new report on the danger of lead in school drinking water, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio on Thursday called on the New Jersey Department of Education to publish and conduct analysis of the results of testing for the contaminant.
While Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 plan to address lead exposure via school water systems in New Jersey incorporated provisions from legislation Muoio introduced in the Assembly (A-3539), the lawmaker notes that the governor’s omission of lead testing analysis and reporting requirements jeopardizes the wellness of children statewide.
“The results thus far prove that this is not an urban or rural problem; it is a New Jersey problem, and we are all touched by its consequences. The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible, but they are also preventable,”said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We owe it to our children and future generations of this state to not only mandate testing of lead in our schools and homes, but also to adequately analyze and report those results to all concerned in a way that provides a meaningful path toward solving this crisis.”
Muoio, who has introduced a number of bills aimed at reducing children’s exposure to lead in both water and paint, is the lead sponsor of legislation (A-3539) to require public and nonpublic schools to test for and remediate lead in drinking water and disclose the test results. The bill would require periodic testing to utilize federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, which are significantly stricter than the state’s. The measure, which received unanimous Assembly approval, awaits further consideration in the Senate.
Because the governor’s plan, which included a July 2017 deadline for lead testing in all schools, was not specific regarding the type of data to be collected, the information the Department of Education has available is insufficient to form substantive conclusions and effectively remediate lead in New Jersey’s schools, according to the New Jersey Future report. The Department of Education should streamline and refine the data collection and analysis process so that policymakers can develop an actionable plan for remediation, said Muoio. The legislator plans to amend her bill in hopes of effecting more stringent testing standards and reporting requirements and ultimately producing a viable strategy to protect children.
“Good policy starts with good data and analysis,” said Muoio. “Knowing there’s lead in the water is only the first step. Establishing a long-term solution to this problem requires the state to be aggressive not just in identifying what’s wrong but also in coming together to fix it for the sake of New Jersey’s children.”