By Brenda Flanagan
“There’s already regulation that requires every school to deliver safe drinking water in their schools,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
But Christie took it a step further today, ordering all public schools must test their drinking water for lead hazards and if they find lead, immediately inform parents of test results. This, following reports from several New Jersey school districts have been slow to release results.
“We’re ready to move forward on this, it’ll be ready to go. School districts will do the testing, the state will reimburse them for the cost of the testing so that parents know when they send their children to school this fall, that they will be sent to places where the water is safe for their children and it’s safe for the water to be used for cooking as well,” Christie said.
New Jersey’s Department of Education will come up with a testing protocol, and Christie wants the Legislature to appropriate $10 million to cover testing at 3,000 impacted school facilities. The governor also ordered stricter standards for blood lead test levels: now New Jersey health officials will intervene if tests show five micrograms per deciliter in children, same as the CDC. Kids’ health advocates applauded.
“This is something we’ve been working for for a long time — to change the action levels from 10 to five — for public health intervention for for children who’ve been exposed to lead here in New Jersey,” said Elyse Pivnick, director of environmental health at Isles, Inc.
Why is it so important?
“Because we know most damage happens to kids happens at levels between five and 10,” she said.
The Hall family — with 2-year-old Ronald Jr. — also welcomed the news. They’re very aware of lead dangers.
“It’s helping the health of the kids. If the kids ain’t healthy and the water’s bad, it won’t work,” said Donald Hall Sr.
“It can damage the kids’ brains, their development. It’s not good. It’s actually on the other side of the world killing kids already,” said Taniquah Johnson.
The new regulations, however, do not mandate remediation, which could cost into the billions of dollars, statewide.
Christie noted Camden makes do with bottled water instead of new piping.
“So remediation can be done through bottled water — much less expensively — but that’ll be something we’re not mandating,” Christie said.
All schools — including charters — will have to start testing and notifying parents this September. Those that don’t, the governor said, will be hearing from the AG’s office.