Click play for audio version of this story
New Jersey’s top Democrats are in agreement on what to do about the state’s waterborne lead problem.
“Our country’s deteriorating water infrastructure has sparked a national conversation regarding the best path forward to protect our communities from the dangers of lead exposure,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “While modernizing our aging water infrastructure is a critical piece in ensuring access to clean, safe drinking water, we must also work creatively and collaboratively to prevent lead exposure from lead-based paint in homes and contaminated soil in our communities.”
On Thursday, Murphy announced a broad plan to address aging water infrastructure that has seen some Newark residents exposed to lead through their taps.
Murphy proposed a $500 million bond for lead line and lead paint remediation.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney have expressed support for the measure.
“Each of the proposals put forth by Governor Murphy today merit consideration, including the issuance of $500 million in bonds to replace lead service lines and remediate lead paint in homes. I will thoroughly review all proposals that require action by the legislature,” Coughlin said. “We all agree that lead contamination is a serious issue that must be addressed in order to protect New Jersey residents, particularly our children. I look forward to working with the Governor and Senate President as we seek ways to end this crisis.”
Murphy’s plan also calls for the Departments of Environmental Protection and Community Affairs to conduct inventories of the state’s lead service lines and reinstate a lead-safe housing registry.
The plan also calls for additional training for the state’s water and wastewater operators, a third of whom are at or near retirement age, Murphy said.
As of August, the state had only 60 contractors certified to conduct lead evaluations and only 46 certified to conduct lead abatements.
“We must recognize the extent of the challenges we face in removing lead contamination from our water, soil and paint, and understand that protecting everyone, especially children, from exposure requires a long-term commitment,” Sweeney said, adding that he would work with Sweeney and Coughlin on the governor’s proposals. “There is need for immediate actions but there is also a need for sustained solutions. We will continue to make this a priority in the Legislature.”