TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Phil Murphy signed a set of four bills focused on lead poisoning prevention Thursday. The most significant of the bills – A5342 – will require drinking water utilities to create fully comprehensive inventories of lead service lines and mandate replacement of lead service lines in the next decade. This will put New Jersey ahead of federal policy. The other three bills focused on real estate disclosure for the presence of lead service lines or indoor lead plumbing during home sales (S829), free testing for lead in water upon request in certain circumstances (S830), as well as legislation (S1147) for lead paint disclosures for renters.
The legislation mandating replacement of lead service lines will allow water utilities to raise water rates to pay for pipe replacements and also the use of federal funds to help cover a potential cost of more than $2.5 billion. New Jersey has more than 300,000 lead service lines. The INVEST Act, passed by the House last week, includes $45 billion slated to replace all lead service lines across the nation.
There is no safe level of lead, especially for children and pregnant women, and exposure can lead to long-term neurological impacts, learning disabilities, and other health problems. Close to 5,000 New Jersey children suffered from elevated blood levels of lead between 2018 and 2019. Newark, which was rife with lead service lines, has replaced more than 20,000 lead pipes.
In response to the bill signings, Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey, issued the following statement:
“Lead service lines have been a silent threat in our communities for generations, tainting drinking water with unhealthy levels of lead, which hurts the most vulnerable populations – pregnant women and young children. Thousands of children suffer from elevated levels of lead across the state – and countless others have lead in their blood – which has direct developmental impacts.
“The most comprehensive solution to permanently get the lead out of our drinking water is to go straight to the source and replace every lead service line in the state. This mandate to remove lead service lines across the state, working with utilities, in the next decade, sets the bar and we urge Congress to move forward on the federal infrastructure bill to fund lead service line replacements across the nation.”
“More than two years after Gov. Murphy committed to a comprehensive action plan to reduce lead poisoning, this package of bills is a huge step forward to eliminating lead as a public health menace.”