21 NJ School Districts Report Lead In Water

Jan 26, 2017

Department of Education officials testify at legislative task force hearing
Credit Phil Gregory

New Jersey schools have another six months to comply with a state directive to test their drinking water for lead contamination.

The New Jersey Department of Education says about half of its 586 school districts have completed their testing and 21 have reported elevated lead levels.

Project Manager Jim Palmer says the schools have to shut off contaminated fountains and sinks and come up with a long-term solution to resolve the lead problem.

“We as a department are not directing any school district to choose one type of remediation versus another. The cost benefit analysis needs to be done at the district level.”

David Sciarra with the Education Law Center believes the School Development Authority should pay or provide grants to install filters or replace old water pipes.

“The agencies seem to have taken the position that is acceptable for districts who have schools like this to remain on bottled water indefinitely.”

Assemblyman John McKeon says there are effective filtering systems that could be installed on school water fountains and sinks.

“I like the filters personally to the extent that they can be done almost immediately.”

But Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley believes filters are not a good long-term solution.

“The life cycle can vary and it ultimately is dependent upon replacing it, which as we know for thousands of faucets in literally hundreds of schools around the state, that’s not going to cut it.”

O’Malley says a new funding source is needed to replace the aging water pipes in schools.

He says all options should be explored including a possible fee on plastic bags and bottles.