Gov. Christie announced a plan on May 2 to test the drinking water in all New Jersey schools and to release the findings to the public. He called on the state Legislature to appropriate $10 million in the 2016-2017 budget to support the testing and notification requirements.
The action comes after reports of lead contamination in the drinking water of some schools in Newark and other school districts, and reports that children in 11 municipalities in New Jersey had lead levels higher than that of students in Flint, Michigan, where a well-publicized water crisis continues to unfold.
“On behalf of the New Jersey School Boards Association, I thank Governor Christie for advocating state financial support for a comprehensive initiative that, otherwise, would pose financial difficulty for many communities,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “As always, NJSBA will examine the proposal with the goal of ensuring that the recommended financial support for lead testing is adequate.”
Gov. Christie has directed the New Jersey Department of Education to mandate the lead testing of the water in schools, and to require schools to post all test results and immediately notify parents if testing shows elevated lead levels.
The new mandate will apply to approximately 2,600 schools beginning next school year.
The governor also directed the state Health Department to require earlier public health intervention, including education, case management, home visits and other steps, when lead levels are detected in a child. Previously such intervention was triggered when 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood were detected; new regulations will require such measures if lead levels are between 5 and 9 micrograms.
State and Federal Bills The governor’s action on Monday comes after legislation has been proposed at both the state and federal level to mandate such testing.
An Assembly bill, A-3539, would require public and non-public schools in the state to conduct periodic testing for lead contamination in water, while a state Senate bill, S-2022, would require bi-annual testing and notification.
In Washington, DC, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Donald Payne have introduced the Transparent Environment in School Testing (TEST) for Lead Act in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. The bills would require states to help schools test for lead if those states receive federal funding for safe water programs.