NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright joined NJSBA, NJASA, NJEA, NJPTA and other advocates for a discussion with Senate Legislative Leadership on the need for lead testing, and remediation where necessary in New Jersey’s schools.
Pictured in Photo: Rose Acerra, PTA; Mary Coogan, ACNJ; Ginger Gold Schnitzer, NJEA; Mike Vrancik, NJ School Boards Association; Patricia Wright, Principals and Supervisors; Donna Chiera, AFT; Senator Sweeney; Melanie Schultz, Association of School Administrators; Richard Bozza, Association of School Administrators; Jason Redd, Trenton School Board, & Betty Ginsburg, Garden State Coalition of Schools
Led by Senate President Sweeney, the round table included Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Joe Vitale. Stakeholders and representatives hailed from New Jersey School Boards Association, the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the state Parent Teachers Association, the Association of School Administrators, the NJEA, the AFT, the president of the Trenton school board, in addition to NJPSA’s own Executive Director Pat Wright.
Senator Sweeney, Senator Ruiz and Senator Rice are sponsors of the legislation requiring every school to test the drinking water in the school for the presence of lead and then test at least twice annually (Legislators Unveil Lead Plans, March 29, 2016). Similar legislation that would only require testing every five years if nothing was found, was considered in the Assembly Environment Committee last week (Assembly Committee Takes Action On Lead, Focus of Hearing Dominated By ‘Smart Container’ Discussion, April 7, 2016)
The Christie Administration also announced last week the $10 million in aid will be set aside to address lead issues in communities (
The Senate Bill
Under the Senate bill, lead tests would be conducted in accordance with guidelines provided by the Department of Environmental Protection in conjunction with the Department of Education. Each school would be required to provide a copy of the test results to the commissioners of both departments, make them available to the public and notify parents and guardians of the test results.
If the tests detect a level of lead in the drinking water above the “action level” or concentration established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the public school would be required to take immediate steps to provide an alternate drinking water supply or to use filters to reduce or remove the lead contamination.
The bill would require the superintendent of each school district to identify each school building that contains lead pipes, lead solder, or fixtures containing lead, and provide a list of the identified buildings to the DOE commissioner. The measure would require the school district to install a water filter or water treatment device certified to remove lead on each drinking water fountain and each sink used for food preparation in the identified buildings. The school district would also be required to maintain and replace those filters in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The legislation would appropriate up to $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund to reimburse school districts for the water filters.
The first test would be conducted within 30 days prior to the start of the school year, and the second test conducted six months later. The bill would allocate $3 million to the Department of Education to reimburse the school districts for the testing and $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund to reimburse schools for water filters.
In 2015, there were more than 3,000 new cases of children under six with elevated levels of toxic lead reported in New Jersey. Since 2000, about 225,000 children in the state have been afflicted by lead, according to advocates.
A recent report showed that 11 cities and two counties in New Jersey have a higher proportion of children affected by lead than in Flint, Michigan. A higher percentage of children were found with elevated blood lead levels in Irvington, East Orange, Trenton, Newark, Paterson, Plainfield, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Atlantic City, East Brunswick and Passaic, and in Salem and Cumberland counties.