Newark – Vice President Kamala Harris joined Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Reagan, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Bob Menendez, Rep. Frank Pallone and Rep. Donald Payne at an event Friday in Newark to celebrate the full replacement of every lead service line – more than 23,000 across Newark – in the past two-and-half years. Gov. Murphy touted the legislation he signed last summer that will require drinking water utilities to create fully comprehensive inventories of lead service lines and mandate replacement of lead service lines in the next decade.
In December, Vice President Harris announced a national lead action plan to replace all lead pipes and paint in the next decade and for the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen lead testing requirements. Nearly 2,000 communities have had drinking water samples with high levels of lead. New Jersey’s legislation mandating the replacement of lead service lines allows water utilities to raise rates to pay for pipe replacements and also permits the utilities to access federal infrastructure funds to help cover a potential cost of more than $2.5 billion. New Jersey has more than 350,000 lead service lines. In addition, the federal infrastructure bill – the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) – includes a $15 billion down payment to replace lead service lines across the nation. It also features $200 million to stop school drinking water contamination, which is pervasive.
There is no safe level of lead, especially for children and pregnant women, and exposure can lead to long-term neurological impacts, learning disabilities and other health problems. Close to 4,500 New Jersey children suffered from elevated blood levels of lead between 2018 and 2019. More than 10 million American homes connect to water mains with lead service lines and the federal government also estimates 400,000 schools and childcare facilities also face exposure to lead in their water.
Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley issued the following statement:
“Lead service lines are a menace to our drinking water, and New Jersey is now becoming a leader in replacing them quickly. Last year, Governor Murphy signed a law requiring removal of these toxic pipes in ten years or less. Newark’s success shows that communities can meet or even exceed this deadline. And with unprecedented federal funding now available, every community should be moving as soon as possible to secure safer drinking water for our kids.
And that means not just replacing lead service lines but also halting the widespread contamination of drinking water in our schools, where our kids go to learn and play every day. Fortunately, the bipartisan infrastructure law and federal recovery funds are also providing major resources that our schools can use to get the lead out.
We are thankful for the leadership from Vice President Harris on this vital issue as we must get the lead out of our drinking water and the bodies of our children and most vulnerable residents.”