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Lead in Drinking Water

Lead has been in the news frequently, nationally and in New Jersey. It is a toxic substance that causes neurological damage, especially to young children. Lead in drinking water is one source of exposure. As indicated by recent drinking water test results from some schools in New Jersey and nationwide such as the widely-publicized crisis in Flint, some drinking water taps are testing high in lead.

To explain why this is happening and to put it in a broader context that considers other water infrastructure needs, the Jersey Water Works Steering Committee has issued a statement. Jersey Water Works has also convened a collaborative task force to develop a practical, broadly-supported action agenda to eliminate lead in drinking water throughout New Jersey. Additionally, Jersey Water Works has developed this library of resources to help educate our constituents on lead in drinking water, including its effects and best-practice solutions for communities, utilities and residents.

The resources are organized into these sections:



State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States

This report, State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States,describes the features of statewide initiatives in operation between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2018 in 24 states and the District of Columbia to conduct testing for lead in school drinking water, and the prevalence of elevated lead concentrations in tap water in public schools based on available data. To identify and summarize the features of state policies and programs, researchers conducted online searches using a search engine and by scanning state legislative and department websites and existing resources from public health organizations. Researchers communicated with state government agencies to verify their policy or program and to request relevant documents and up-to-date data on water quality test results for lead.

Key findings of the study include that there is no uniformity in:

  • States’ approaches to create and oversee programs to test for elevated lead in school drinking water
  • States’ action levels
  • States’ protocols to test school drinking water for lead and to share their findings
  • States’ recommendations for school responses to testing
  • States’ organization and maintenance of water quality data

In 12 states (which were those with available data on the lead content found in drinking water in schools), the research team found that:

  • 12% of all water samples tested had a lead concentration at or above the state’s action level
  • 44% of schools tested had one or more water samples with a lead concentration at or above the state’s action level
  • Schools that collected and tested water from a greater number of taps were also more likely to identify a sample with elevated lead concentrations
  • Use of lower action levels by a state program would increase the proportion of schools that would need to take steps to address the content of lead in the drinking water

Perspectives on State Legislation Concerning Lead Testing in School Drinking Water

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council undertook this study, Perspectives on State Legislation Concerning Lead Testing in School Drinking Water, to inform state legislators and advocates as they consider new state laws to address lead contamination in school drinking water. They reviewed the growing body of state laws concerning testing of lead in school water, and they identified relevant reports that could help understand the effectiveness of laws. They also contacted stakeholders with knowledge of the implementation and impact of the state laws. Finally, they analyzed how each law addresses key elements that may relate to the effectiveness of a law in terns of the coverage of schools, implementation of testing, risk, reduction, and disclosure.

Lead in Drinking Water: Post-Flint Media Coverage and Policy Changes in the Northeast-Midwest Region

This report, Lead in Drinking Water: Post-Flint Media Coverage and Policy Changes in the Northeast-Midwest Region, released by the Northeast-Midwest Institute presents a comprehensive analysis of post-Flint statewide laws and regulations enacted in the NEMW states to improve water quality, as well as testing, reporting, and notification of lead results, and replacement of infrastructure.

The report catalogs the severity of the lead crisis in the Northeast and Midwest jurisdictions by using a novel, yet established methodology of reviewing news media coverage as a proxy for the severity of drinking water issues related to lead contamination. A review of news articles published in the years 2015, 2016, and 2017 found that the lead contamination problem is geographically spread across the region, but most concentrated in a few states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

The report also found that media coverage of the lead contamination issue was most intense in mid-2016, when the problem was high on the public agenda, but that the coverage quickly receded in visibility, with little to no media coverage of the lead problem in 2017, even though the seriousness of the crisis is just as bad today as before.

News release here.


Putting children first: Tackling lead in water in child care facilities

Addressing lead in water in child care facilities presents a significant opportunity to reduce lead exposure for many vulnerable children in a single location, with reasonable effort. To succeed in testing and remediating lead in water, child care facility operators, state licensing agencies, and health departments will need support from EPA, water utilities, and NSF International, as well as the families they serve.

This report, Putting children first: Tackling lead in water in child care facilities, provides recommendations for each of these critical audiences.


New Jersey Lead Poisoning Prevention Action Plan

The analysis and recommendations contained in the 2018 New Jersey Lead Poisoning Prevention Action Plan provide a comprehensive framework for action steps that can be undertaken by the state, local agencies and other prevention partners to fully eliminate childhood lead poisoning within ten years in New Jersey.

These strategies focus on the causal sources of environmental lead exposure, support improvements to services to mitigate the impact of lead exposure in at-risk communities, including communities of color, and suggest investment in targeted, data-driven primary prevention efforts. Key policy reforms and investment in infrastructure would increase the safety of the environment, and risk-based prevention activities would prevent lead poisoning for New Jersey’s most vulnerable children.




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