(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats L. Grace Spencer, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Cleopatra Tucker, Eliana Pintor-Marin, Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to enable DEP to make improvements to the water infrastructure in order to address elevated levels of lead found in Newark drinking water cleared its first legislative hurdle on Monday.
The bill (A-3583) would appropriate $20 million from societal benefits charge, commonly referred to as the “Clean Energy Fund” to the Department of Environmental Protection in order to provide funding to the City of Newark.
“This bill would provide critical funding to help address one of the most important environmental problems facing the state- an aging water supply infrastructure, starting with Newark,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “What has occurred in Newark is only be the beginning of what we will see throughout New Jersey as a result of the decay of the state’s water infrastructure.”
“”The deterioration of the physical assets of drinking water supply systems presents serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and to the health and welfare of the citizens of this state,” said Muoio (D-Mercer, Hunterdon.
The bill cites the health crisis related to lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, and more recently, the Department of Environmental Protection advising the Newark Public Schools system to temporarily utilize alternate water sources in 30 district school buildings after recent testing found elevated levels of lead at various water taps, point to the immediate need to address lead abatement in our drinking water in order to protect the public health.
“The bottom line: Children and families will stay at risk of lead poisoning and other ills perpetrated by a decaying water infrastructure if we do not begin remediation,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a wakeup call for New Jersey and the entire country. This legislation is extremely critical as we move to immediately address this issue in Newark.”
“Alarming levels of lead in our communities and our schools warrants immediate action by the state,” said Pintor-Marin (D-Essex). “It is time we begin remediation of New Jersey’s decaying water infrastructure to protect our communities.”
“We must do more to protect our children and families from the presence of lead in communities and schools,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “The state’s water infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and we must act now in the interest of New Jersey families.”
“New Jersey families and children should not have to worry whether it’s safe to drink water from the water fountain or in their homes,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “We must ensure better protection of our children from lead now and in the future.”
The bill further states that the lead in drinking water comes from lead soldering, lead pipes, and leaded brass faucets. Too much lead in the human body can damage the nervous system, brain, and kidneys. Young children are at the greatest risk of toxic effects of lead.
The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee approved the bill. It will now to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.