Hundreds of schools in New Jersey, including in Newark, have tested positive for lead in their students’ drinking water, raising urgent questions about how to pay for upgrades to make the water permanently safe.
State officials now have $100 million to spend on improving the drinking water infrastructure in schools as part of $500 million in bond funding under the Securing Our Children’s Future Act approved by voters in November 2018.
To spend the money most effectively, officials are considering measures such as:
Replacing lead service lines and water fountains;
Installing filters or other technology;
Concentrating the funding in the school districts most affected by lead in water infrastructure — or spreading the spending evenly across the state.
NJ Spotlight held a roundtable on February 26 on “Achieving Lead-Free School Water in New Jersey.” Public officials, public policy advocates, school district leadership, along with construction, plumbing, and building trades’ representatives discussed how to improve the drinking water infrastructure in the state’s schools.
The keynote address was given by Robert Christlieb, who has worked on mitigating the significant problem of lead-contaminated drinking water in Chicago’s public school system. He noted that 37 percent of the system’s buildings were found to have lead levels above the federal government’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
Chris Sturm, Managing Director, Policy and Water,
New Jersey Future
Robert M. Christlieb, LEED AP, Director of Operations for Facilities,
Chicago Public Schools; designer/developer of Water Quality Testing
and Mitigation Program for lead-contaminated drinking sources
at Chicago Public Schools
Michael J. Furrey, President, Legislative Liaison, American Water Works
Association, New Jersey section; former Advisory Board for Licensing of
Water and Wastewater Operators; Adjunct Professor for Rutgers University
Senator Linda R. Greenstein, Assistant Majority Leader; Law and
Public Safety, Chair; Environment and Energy, Vice-Chair, New Jersey
Dan Kennedy, Director of Environmental and Utility Operations,
Utility and Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA)
Gerard M. Waites, Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor, United Association
Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs
Valerie W. Wilson, SBA, QPA, RSBA, School Business Administrator,
Newark Public Schools
Jon Hurdle, Contributing Editor, NJ Spotlight
Presentation and Related Editorial Content
NJEA is proud to partner with Healthy Schools Now in its mission to ensure safe learning and working conditions for New Jersey’s public schools students and the educators and other professionals who work with them.