NJ to mandate all schools test water for lead
Gov. Chris Christie has unveiled a plan to require all public schools in the Garden State to test their water for lead.
During a news conference Monday at the Statehouse, Christie said his administration is committed to addressing the dangers of elevated lead levels “whenever we find them.”
Christie said the new mandate “will start in the next school year and apply to approximately 3,000 school facilities across the state.”
Christie's announcement comes as a growing number of school districts are revealing recent test results showing dangerous levels of lead in drinking water. The testing was prompted by a national spotlight on lead poisoning.
New Jersey 101.5 revealed last month that most schools in New Jersey not only are not required to test their water but those that voluntarily do are not required to notify state officials.
Under the plan, the Department of Education will work with the DEP to determine scientifically appropriately protocols to advise schools how the testing should be performed, according to their particular needs.
Christie said schools will be required “to post all test results and immediately notify parents if testing shows elevated levels of lead.”
Christie will formally ask the Legislature to include an additional $10 million to the fiscal year 2017 budget to pay for the cost of the testing.
Christie said he is also directing the state Department of Health to move forward on regulatory changes to strengthen New Jersey’s standard for intervening in cases of potential lead exposure.
“New Jersey will join only about 25 percent of states in the nation in resetting out blood lead levels of concern in children, from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, to between 5 and 9 micrograms per deciliter of blood," he said. "This will now be in compliance with the standards set by the CDC.”
He explained this will mean “earlier intervention when lead is detected in a child at an even lower level. This change will enable our medical providers to intervene with education, case management, home visits and other steps to address health hazards caused by lead exposure.”
He added the Department of Health will also step up efforts to educate parents on the risks of lead exposure.
“With funding from a federal grant, an enhanced statewide public awareness campaign will be launched, to focus on the ways to decrease risks in children from lead exposure,” he said.
The bottom line, said the governor, is this type of testing is very important “so that parents know when they send their children to school this fall that they will be sending them to places where the water is safe for their children to drink and it’s safe for the water to be used for cooking as well."