N.J. congressmen want federal funds to test school water

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 23, 2016

 

Two New Jersey congressmen want federal funding to be used to test schools' drinking water after elevated lead levels were detected in water at the state's largest district.

U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Donald M. Payne, Jr. introduced separate legislation Wednesday that would provide support for water testing in schools across the country. 

"All Americans, and especially kids in our schools and childcare facilities, deserve access to clean water," Pascrell Jr. said. "Our job is to make it easier for the facilities to conduct needed testing by providing funding sources."

Pascrell's proposal, a companion to a bill being authored by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, would create a $100 million grant program for schools and childcare centers that want to test their water.

Payne's plan calls for updating federal law to require that states that receive certain funding for water programs help school districts and charter schools test for lead in their water. Schools that participate would be required to test their water either annually or bi-annually depending on how old the building is. 

"As a parent, I want to know that my children are drinking lead-free water, and I want other families to know that about their own children, too," Payne said. 

Elevated levels of lead were found recently in the drinking water at 30 buildings in Newark Public Schools, forcing those schools to use alternate water sources.

Gov. Chris Christie and city officials have urged caution. The lead levels were "nowhere near crisis or dangerous levels," Christie said.

But environmentalists said the tests in Newark's schools should serve as a "wake-up call" to a growing public health issue, and the contaminated water has heightened concerns about the safety of drinking water in schools. 

The calls for federal funding come as state lawmakers are also pushing for school water testing. A bill proposed by high-ranking state senators would provide $3 million to fund tests in New Jersey schools.

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