TRENTON — New Jersey will have another $10 million this year to combat lead contamination in low and moderate-income communities.

Gov. Chris Christie announced the plan Tuesday, which would provide up to $20,000 for every housing unit needing lead remediation and related repairs. The money comes from the existing state budget.

The announcement comes after recent headlines about lead contamination in the water at 30 Newark school buildings — and criticism by Democratic lawmakers of a $10 million budget cut to the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.

Exposure to lead can lead to developmental and behavioral disabilities among children, and even death. Last year, 898 children were found to have high levels of lead in their blood.

But most lead contamination, Christie noted Tuesday, is the result of lead-based paint in older homes.

The new program under the Department of Community Affairs is in addition to existing state initiatives to address lead contamination. Christie said the state this year already has spent $7 million on inspections and $5.4 million on lead testing. The state has spent $30 million on lead programs since 2011.

“This is the right thing to do to protect our children and their families,” Christie said. "We're working hard and making sure that lead poisoning, while it's a concern, never becomes and epidemic in New Jersey."

 

Christie also cautioned lawmakers against “overreacting.”

“The temptation in the Legislature is that the minute they see a problem, they go often to the most extreme, expensive solution to that problem. We need to go at this very smartly and not overshoot the mark.”

An Assembly committee this week approved a proposal to require deposits of 10 to 20 cents on all plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans for the purpose off funding lead abatement and remediation programs.

Lead screenings of children in the state have increased from 10,200 in 1998 to 205,607 in 2014.

New Jersey is one of 17 states that require lead screenings of children at 1 and 2 years old. About 97 percent of New Jersey children under 6 years old have had at least one lead blood test.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com. Follow on Twitter and Facebook