This week new state regulations will go into effect that require school districts in the state to test their drinking water for lead if they have yet to do so. The regulations also require schools to test water at least every six years. Schools who begin testing within the next year will be eligible for state reimbursement through $10 million allocated for water testing in the state budget. All results will be made public and districts will be required to notify parents if lead levels exceed regulation.

“This is long overdue; our children’s health is at risk. We’re glad it’s finally happening but we need to do more. The testing needs to start sooner rather than later.  When they find problems, they need to be addressed and fixed right away. This is the beginning of dealing with a systemic problem that’s going to take years to solve and lot of work and funding to get done,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “These regulations will help us to make our communities and schools safer and protect our most precious and treasured resources: our children.”

Removing lead from our water is important because it is incredibly dangerous, especially to children. Lead can cause illness and even in small amounts can lead to brain damage and learning disabilities. It can also lead to childhood development problems and other serious health issues. Thousands of children are diagnosed with lead poisoning in our state each year; over 3,000 in 2015 alone.

“Children are exposed to lead wherever they go: schools, homes, playgrounds, parks, and communities. By testing for lead, we are taking the first steps towards making sure our children aren’t exposed to it. We need to make our children safer and guarantee that have clean drinking water in their schools and aren’t ingesting toxic substances,” said Jeff Tittel.

Lead has been found all over the states, especially in urban areas with old infrastructure like Newark and Camden. New Jersey cities have old outdated pipes in our streets and homes which can mean even higher levels of lead in our water. Many of our water systems go back to the Victorian era and even homes built in the 30’s and 40’s have pipes made with lead sodder. We also don’t do enough testing at the faucet; most of the testing is done at the plant. This means that the lead from these old pipes come into our water before it gets to our homes and schools.

“Once lead is detected, we need to know where it’s coming from and if old pipes are contributing to the problem. Many cities in New Jersey, even Hamilton, have old pipes. Some of this infrastructure goes back to the Victorian Age. Whether the pipes are made with lead sodder or are simply allowing lead to leach in and out, they need to be replaced and upgraded to keep the lead out of our schools,” said Jeff Tittel.

The recent outbreak of contaminated drinking water is showing us how New Jersey needs to do a better job at detecting and treating lead in our drinking water, especially in our schools. Lead has been found across the state from Newark to New Brunswick to Hamilton to Camden. This is an important way to detect, and fix, the problem in more places.

“These regulations are incredibly important because all children deserve clean safe water to drink in their schools. We need to set up a long-term funding source so that we can continue to test and monitor drinking water for lead and other hazardous substances. We need to make sure that we are quickly finding and removing lead from drinking water sources. Our children deserve to grow up happy and healthy no matter what school district they are in,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.