With recent reports of lead in the water supplies of schools in the local and national media spotlight, the need for broad legislative solutions is sadly more pressing than ever. The NJ Work Environment Council, Environment New Jersey and allies strongly endorse A-3539/S-2082, model legislation that will require public and non-public schools to test for and remediate lead in drinking water, and disclose test results in a proactive, transparent manner.
Joined on the steps of Trenton’s Grace A. Dunn Middle School by the bills’ prime sponsors Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher-Mouio (D-Mercer) and Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), a diverse group of community representatives and dedicated activists spoke about the need to support this much needed legislation.
“Lead poisoning is insidious because it is cumulative, irreversible and leads to a lifetime of developmental and physical disabilities,” said Assemblywoman Maher-Muoio (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “In the simplest of terms, we need to be doing more to protect New Jersey’s children from lead. We need to test, and currently, New Jersey schools and daycare centers aren’t required to check their drinking water for elevated levels of lead.”
“It’s imperative that we have a broad legislation solution to the lead crisis in our schools,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer). “This legislation mandates more rigorous testing of lead in water and ensures that important information is disseminated in an open and transparent manner. I am committed to making sure that all students in our state have access to safe and healthy schools and this legislation will help to ensure that goal.”
“The lead crisis in public schools cries out for immediate action,” said WEC executive director Dan Fatton. “This legislation mandates aggressive, clear, and concrete testing measures, which need to be implemented comprehensively, in order to mitigate and prevent poisoning from lead in school drinking water. We thank Assemblywoman Muoio and Senator Turner for their leadership in fighting for New Jersey’s students.”
“Lead in our school’s drinking water shouldn’t be treated as a one-time mistake. This is a systemic crisis for all of our schools state-wide, but especially in older schools like those found here in Trenton,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “We need to ensure the quality of our children’s drinking water – not just once, but every day of the year. We need to trust that the results will be transparent for every parent, teacher and principal to see. We can’t hide our lead crisis any longer, and the first step is admitting that we have a systemic crisis. And the second step is consistent, regular and transparent testing. We thank the leadership of Senator Turner and Assemblywoman Maher-Muoio for being advocates for Trenton’s schools because this crisis demands a state-wide solution.”
“It is a very good idea that school water be tested for hazardous lead throughout the state. Only by knowing the extent and locations of the problem can we begin to craft solutions,” said Elyse Pivnick Director of Environmental Health for Isles.
“Lead-poisoned children are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. This causes lasting damage to the affected children, families, and entire communities. It is appalling that we are allowing children to be exposed to a poison in our schools that makes them more likely to drop out of school. We must take immediate steps to address our aging infrastructure, which is leeching poison into our water systems. Our children deserve better,” said Ann Vardeman, Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action.
“A rash of local and national news coverage surrounding lead in school drinking water has made it crystal clear that we must confront the lead crisis head on,” said Trenton Education Association President Naomi Johnson-LaFleur. “I am confident that this crisis can be addressed. I strongly endorse this important legislation and I thank Assemblywoman Maher-Muoio and Senator Turner for their tireless work in ensuring healthy and safe schools in New Jersey for all students.”
The press conference, and the effort to address lead poisoning in our state were supported by many partners, including: New Jersey Work Environment Council, Trenton Education Association, New Jersey Education Association, Environment NJ, Isles, New Jersey Citizen Action, Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance,
Statewide Education Organizing Committee, and Shiloh Community Development Corporation.