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Does State's Solution to Lead-Contaminated Schools End with Bottled Water?

Friday, January 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
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NJspotlight.com 01/17/17

Lead has been found in water in public schools across New Jersey, including Newark and Camden where students have been drinking bottled water for more than a decade. Earlier this month, high levels of lead forced Englewood Hospital to switch supplies.

With New Jersey facing an estimated $8 billion price tag to fix its drinking water infrastructure, the task force is examining steps that could be taken to address such problems as polluted water supplies; leaking water mains that lose up to 30 percent of the supply before it ever gets to the customer; and an aging system, much of it more than a century old.

About half of some 800 facilities have finished testing their water for lead, according to the state Department of Education. More than 130 schools were found to have unsafe levels of the contaminant from at least one outlet, according to New Jersey Future.

In response, districts have been told cut off access to contaminated supplies and switch to bottled water. A more permanent solution is left to the districts, according to Jim Palmer, executive director of the Office of Project Management. “There’s no money we’ve got that is set aside for remediation,’’ he said. “It all comes down to money,’’ said David Pringle, campaign director of Clean Water Action of New Jersey. “Bottled water is not the answer.’’

Department of Environmental Protection officials said they expect to have approximately $33 million to hand out in loans and other programs to help communities address lead in their water. The funds would be used to replace the service lines and other fixtures inside buildings where lead in the plumbing causes the contamination of otherwise clean supplies.

About 10 percent of the public water systems have been found to exceed the federal action level for lead in drinking water, according to Dan Kennedy, an assistant DEP commissioner. They are under so-called action plans to bring levels of the contaminant down below the recommended level, he said.


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