Millions of federal dollars headed to Newark, Trenton to combat lead

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for
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on June 13, 2016

File photo of a door of a Newark home found to have lead paint in 2007.



NEWARK — Months after lead contamination was found in the drinking water supply at dozens of schools in the state's largest school district, federal funding to help remediate lead hazards in low-income housing is headed to the city.

Newark and Trenton – two of 11 cities in New Jersey that were recently found to have a high proportion of young children with elevated blood lead levels – are slated to receive millions of dollars in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding to help combat the chemical element, Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker announced in a release Monday.

According to the announcement, the Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration program granted Newark $3 million, and the city picked up an additional $400,000 from Healthy Homes Supplemental funding. Trenton got a little over $2.1 million from the two agencies, the announcement said.

The funds will remediate lead hazards in 150 low-income housing units in Newark, and 145 in Trenton.

"This federal funding is critical to enhancing efforts in Newark and Trenton to reduce lead hazards in public housing, making the homes safer for residents," Menendez said in a statement about the grants.

The announcement comes after a water crisis in Flint, Mich. reignited the national conversation on lead levels present in paint, water supplies, and other places.

Children in 11 New Jersey cities reported having higher blood lead levels than those of kids in Flint, which experts said was in large part caused by exposure to paint in old homes. The federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint in 1978, but many older homes still have lead paint, or lead paint dust in them.

"Under no circumstance should New Jersey families be forced to jeopardize their health or the health of their children due to dangerous levels of lead in their homes," Booker said in a statement.

"We already know the potential health impacts of lead poisoning can be devastating to a child, so we have an obligation to secure the resources needed to update the aging housing and infrastructure in our communities."

In March, revelations of elevated lead levels in Newark schools' drinking water spurred a flurry of lead testing in districts across the state, and several legislation proposals that would require more testing and provide funding to remediate lead issues.

Experts have said that the amount of exposure through paint is much higher than through the amounts found in Newark schools' water.

Staci Berger, the president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, called the HUD funding a "big step" toward addressing lead hazards in the state.

"Nonprofit community developers in Newark and Trenton have the expertise to remediate homes and make them permanently safe for today's kids and future generations," she said in a statement.

"It's a solvable problem, we just need the resources."

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