NJDOE Tells State Board $10M In Lead Testing May Not Be Enough

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The $10 million in state funds set aside to reimburse school districts for testing their water for lead may not be enough to fully cover testing statewide.

“We may or may not have enough money” Jim Palmer, executive director of the Department of Education’s Office of Project Management, told the state Board of Education. “And if we don’t, everybody’s going to get an equal shot at the money, and it may be 80 cents to the dollar.”

Tests have ranged from $8.75 per water sample to $65 per sample, depending on the company hired. Another variable, he said, is the number of samples each school needs to test.  About 62 percent of school districts and 52 percent of charter schools have tested their water for lead since the state began mandating it last summer.  However, the DOE has only received 47 requests for cost reimbursements from schools and districts. Reimbursements have not been disbursed, as the department is waiting to see how many other districts will ultimately submit requests and the amount of those requests, they said.  Some districts have indicated they plan to do the testing over spring break this month.

Of the districts that have tested, 78 have informed the state of lead concentrations above federal action levels in at least of their drinking water samples.

The $10 million the state set aside is only intended for water testing, not remediation if elevated lead levels are identified.