Gov. Phil Murphy reaffirmed his commitment to address lead exposure in New Jersey and its harmful effects on public health and child development by signing a package of bills aimed at protecting New Jersey’s families from lead poisoning.
The legislation, which will require regular inspections for, and the remediation of, lead-based paint hazards in residential rental properties and require the inventory, replacement, and financing of lead service lines throughout the state within the next 10 years, will advance New Jersey as a national leader in lead poisoning prevention.
“Today, we are taking the most aggressive action in the nation to reduce lead-based paint exposure in our homes and communities, which is a critical victory for public health and environmental justice, and advances New Jersey as a national leader in lead poisoning prevention,” proclaimed Murphy in a signing ceremony July 22.
Putting the Plan into Action
Nearly two years ago, Murphy unveiled a comprehensive statewide plan to address lead exposure in New Jersey, in which exposure to lead-based paint and lead in drinking water were two key elements of the strategy.
“In October of 2019, I put forth a multifaceted statewide plan to protect New Jersey’s children and families from the dangers of lead, and today, we are taking a significant step forward in our strategy to reduce lead exposure in our homes,” said Murphy. “Modernizing our aging water infrastructure with new lead services lines is critical in ensuring safe drinking water flows through our communities.”
“In addition to replacing service lines, we must also go further to protect those in older homes and apartments where door jambs and window sashes may be coated in decades of layers of lead-based paints, creating fine particulates that are unknowingly inhaled and ingested.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), said to reducing the threat of lead poisoning in water systems and in the state’s older housing stock where lead-based paint is frequently found is a priority of the Murphy administration.
“No child or adult should have to live with the detrimental and lasting health effects of lead poisoning. That is why DCA stands ready to develop an educational campaign about the hazards of lead and why controlling these hazards is so important,” satted Oliver. “We are also dedicated to working with local governments to ensure improvements are made to water infrastructure and lead-safe inspections are conducted in all rental dwellings.”
The governor signed the following three bills into law:
- S1147/A1372: Requires lead paint inspection on certain residential rental property, including upon tenant turnover; establishes lead-based paint hazard education program; appropriates $3,900,000.
- A5343/SS3398: Requires public community water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines within 10 years; provides for recoupment of costs by investor-owned public water systems.
- A5407/S3459: Removes restrictions on special assessments and bond issuances for replacement of residential lead service lines; revises budgetary requirements for operators of certain water systems.
Sponsors Speak Out
“With today’s signing New Jersey has become the fourth state in the nation to enact legislation targeted at ensuring our residential properties are free of lead-based paint, protecting our children against exposure,” said State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), one of the key sponsors of S1147. “Within certain areas of the state as many as 7.6% of children have elevated blood lead levels.”
“This takes the first step in beginning to address the issue by identifying the properties in need of remediation and providing funding for landlords to remove this hazard before welcoming new tenants.”
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) explained that life-long health effects from lead exposure are not limited to the thousands of new cases New Jersey records annually but define the daily life in New Jersey’s impoverished and minority communities for generations.
“For these communities lead exposure is the silent epidemic that has never warranted a bold and unified response, until today,” said Schaer, sponsor of A5343 and A5407. “Our communities and our State share one common future, none of us are immune to the reverberating effects of lead poisoning. This legislation provides a path forward to guaranteeing every resident the right to safe drinking water.”
“Critical upgrades to New Jersey’s water infrastructure are needed to modernize a decaying water system and ensure safe drinking water for New Jersey residents,” added Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), who also sponsored the two bills that originated in the Assembly. “Major cities and the most historic cities, such as Newark, continue to battle a lead crisis on top of the current public health crisis we find ourselves in.
“Lead contamination and aging water infrastructure will amount to a public health crisis, an environmental emergency, and have an impact on our roadways for future generations if we don’t take action and develop a plan now.”