Gov. Phil Murphy last week announced that the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has launched a centralized database providing information about the amount of lead in the drinking water in New Jersey’s schools.
The initiative is part of an effort to strengthen the state’s response to lead testing and the remediation of elevated lead levels in drinking water in New Jersey schools, the governor said.
“New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure has sparked a statewide conversation on the best way forward to protect residents from the dangers of lead exposure,” said Murphy. “In October, I announced a three-pronged strategy to address lead in schools, and I am proud that a month later, the Department of Education implemented a critical part of our plan. By mobilizing the state’s resources to modernize reporting mechanisms and increase public transparency, we are fulfilling our commitment to ensure New Jersey’s children and educators have access to clean, safe drinking water in our schools.”
The centralized, state-managed database provides water quality information reported by school districts, including whether any samples exceeded the permissible lead action level, the date of the most recent sampling, a link to the full sampling results, and contact information for the school district or other school entity.
The statewide database of lead testing summaries is hosted on the New Jersey Department of Education’s Lead Testing webpage and will be updated on a rolling basis as the department receives information from additional school districts.
Lead testing summaries will be updated when the new testing cycle begins in the 2021-2022 school year. Moving forward, the Department of Education will collaborate with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to modernize the data collection and reporting process for school drinking water lead testing.
In addition, to ensure timely detection of elevated lead levels, the NJDOE will move to strengthen its safe drinking water regulations by requiring schools to test for lead every three years, rather than the current requirement of every six years.
Regulations will also include enhanced enforcement measures against non-compliant school districts, such as public reporting of districts that are out of compliance, penalties imposed during the district’s NJQSAC review, and investigation by the NJDOE’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance, according to the governor.
The administration will also prioritize remediation projects for school districts that exceed acceptable standards for lead in the water. These districts will qualify for $100 million in voter-approved bond funding for school water infrastructure improvement projects through the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act.