Sep 14, 2017

New Jersey Schools Find Lead in Drinking Water

Old fixtures, pipe leach lead in drinking water

New Jersey schools respond to lead in water

Nearly 400 New Jersey schools reported finding lead in at least one drinking water outlet in their buildings, according to data compiled by the state Department of Education from mandatory testing of all districts.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered the mandatory testing of all school districts in May 2016 in the wake of reports that dozens of schools had found unsafe levels of lead in drinking fountains at their facilities.

As of the end of August, the Department of Education had received notification from 201 districts and charter schools (a total of 397 schools) of at least one of their test results coming back above the minimum level, according to David Saenz, a spokesman for the department.

The results confirm lead leaching from old fixtures and pipes is a problem facing the state’s schools, a problem many suspected would be uncovered when the statewide results were reported to the agency.

“It’s not new that it is a problem and that people have known about it,’’ said Chris Sturm, managing director for policy and water at New Jersey Future. “This is a statewide problem that needs statewide attention.’’

School districts are required to report the results of their testing on their websites and to inform parents and families in their districts, but only those with positive results indicating lead levels are required to submit the data to the state.

For the most part, lead in drinking water leaches from lead service lines and older fixtures in schools and homes. Some schools have switched to bottled water, as Camden has done for the past 14 years, to deal with elevated lead levels in supplies. A more permanent solution is to replace the lead-based service lines and fixtures, but that is more expensive.