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Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force Releases Recommendations for Lead-Free Drinking Water, Joined by Governor Murphy

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The task force's first meeting in December 2018 in
Lauren Belsky, Program Coordinator, Jersey Water Works

The task force report outlines a roadmap to virtually eliminate lead in drinking water in 10 years; Governor Murphy announces a comprehensive statewide strategy to address lead contamination

The Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force released a report of recommendations to virtually eliminate lead in drinking water in 10 years.

New Jersey is confronting a public health problem as growing awareness of possible exposure to lead from lead service lines has many residents concerned. In response, the Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force–30 experts from government, water utilities, environmental and public health groups, community organizations, and academia–developed a set of practical, cost-effective, equitable, and permanent solutions to lead in drinking water.

“New Jersey has a statewide lead problem that requires a statewide solution,” said Chris Daggett, chair of the Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force. “Despite understanding the risks for decades, lead in pipes and plumbing continues to contaminate water and exacerbate lead poisoning in too many communities with older housing stock. Fortunately, the comprehensive solutions in the report provide a roadmap for a permanent solution.”

The report outlines interdependent actions the state, local government, water utilities, and the public can take to achieve lead-free drinking water. These actions include:

  • Coordinating a state-level campaign for a lead-free New Jersey
  • Permanently replacing lead service lines in 10 years through a comprehensive, interdependent legislative package
  • Creating a 10-year funding program for lead service line replacement
  • Enacting protective rules and programs to ensure safe drinking water
  • Ensuring quality water in child care facilities and schools

“Every day, children and families across the country are affected by aging infrastructure that prohibits access to clean water,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “In New Jersey, we are committed to taking comprehensive action in order to provide the necessary resources to repair our water infrastructure and remediate sources of lead contamination, including lead-based paint and contaminated soil, to protect the health and well-being of our residents.”

“Today’s announcements by Governor Murphy jump-started implementation of the Jersey Water Works Task Force’s recommendations,” said Chris Sturm, Managing Director of Policy and Water at New Jersey Future. “Together with leaders in the legislature, the administration and all of our Jersey Water Works partners, we can turn the corner on lead in drinking water. New Jersey Future is excited to begin.”

Lead exposure can affect anyone, but children and infants are most vulnerable. Although paint is the leading source, 20% of  lead exposure is attributable to drinking water. That share rises to 40-60% in infants who drink formula made with tap water containing lead.

“The Fund for New Jersey is proud to support the urgent work of the Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force and is pleased to see its members commit to ending lead in drinking water in New Jersey within the decade. The Fund for New Jersey is committed to a holistic approach to end childhood lead poisoning in New Jersey, which harms the health and limits the educational opportunity of thousands of New Jersey children,” said Kiki Jamieson, President, The Fund for New Jersey.

“The toxic legacy of lead irreversibly damages over 4,000 New Jersey children under the age of six each year, robbing them of their potential for lifelong health and success. The New Jersey Future Lead in Drinking Water Task Force, led by statewide experts, has achieved consensus around these actionable strategies to remove the risk of lead exposure from New Jersey’s drinking water. This report advances our shared mission to eliminate lead poisoning for this and future generations,” said Ruth Ann Norton, President & CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.

“The most important thing we can do is to protect our most vulnerable from the cumulative impacts of environmental health harms like lead. Lead in drinking water is the first point and 40-60% of initial of exposure–from pregnant women to fetus to infant on formula. Individuals, low income families, and homeowners as well as hard-hit municipalities and schools lack the means to inventory and remove lead service lines which make up 80% of the lead in water problem. Clean Water Action joins others in calling for a comprehensive plan of action that includes timely and accurate public disclosure, state policies and funding to remove lead at the tap,” said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund.

“Lead is baked into New Jersey’s infrastructure. It’s in the water we drink, it’s in the paint on our walls, and it’s in the dirt our children play in. Though necessary, simply replacing pipes is not enough to eliminate the crisis. ACNJ has long advocated for our leaders to take steps to help get the lead out of our environment through awareness campaigns so that parents understand the detrimental effects the element has on developing minds, as well as through meaningful action. The good news is, we already have agencies in place that can help eliminate the ongoing lead crisis gripping our state. We just have to use them,” said Peter Chen, Policy Counsel of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).

“Revitalization and redevelopment of New Jersey’s older towns and cities has begun, but they face many legacy issues including lead paint in homes and lead service lines providing water.  We need to address these issues now, as part of a broader effort to improve our environmental quality and economic competitiveness, so that all residents benefit,” said Daniel J. Van Abs, PhD, PP/AICP, Associate Professor of Practice for Water, Society & Environment, Department of Human Ecology, SEBS, Rutgers University.

“This is the  first statewide plan to address lead in drinking water that brings  together  a broad base of stakeholders from across state agencies, private  and public water utilities, and advocates  to create a thorough set of recommendations about lead service line inventory, replacement, funding and communication.   Very importantly, it acknowledges upfront that lead in water is only  part of a bigger picture of lead in our NJ ecosystem and suggests how New Jersey comprehensively approach  removing lead from our housing, schools,  soil AND water to best protect NJ residents,” said Elyse Pivnick, Senior Director, Environmental Health, Isles.

“Although the task force focused on lead in water, we recognized that there are other sources of exposure including old paint, contaminated soil and dust. Lead is a potent neurotoxin with exposure leading to long term irreversible consequences; we must do everything possible to protect our children,” said Robert K. Tucker, Ph.D.

The Jersey Water Works Lead in Drinking Water Task Force members made 25 individual commitments to action–either new projects, programs, or resources–that help advance the goal of drastically reducing lead in drinking water in New Jersey and build momentum for future implementation of the report’s recommendations. The full list of commitments can be found here.

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