Challenge Alert

Lock in $15,000 with your donation by 6:30 p.m.

Donate now

Half of New Jersey schools have been tested for lead

N.J. Department of Education officials tell legislative task force that 21 school districts have found elevated lead levels in drinking water (Photo by Phil Gregory)

N.J. Department of Education officials tell legislative task force that 21 school districts have found elevated lead levels in drinking water (Photo by Phil Gregory)

New Jersey schools have another six months to comply with a state directive to test their drinking water for lead contamination.

The New Jersey Department of Education says about half of its 586 school districts have completed their testing and only 21 have reported elevated lead levels.

Project Manager Jim Palmer says the schools have to shut off contaminated fountains and sinks and come up with a long-term solution to resolve the lead problem.

“We as a department are not directing any school district to choose one type of remediation versus another. The cost benefit analysis needs to be done at the district level.”

David Sciarra with the Education Law Center believes the School Development Authority should pay or provide grants to install filters or replace old water pipes.

“The agencies seem to have taken the position that is acceptable for districts who have schools like this to remain on bottled water indefinitely.”

Assemblyman John McKeon says there are effective filtering systems that could be installed on school water fountains and sinks.

“I like the filters personally to the extent that they can be done almost immediately.”

But Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley believes filters are not a good long-term solution.

“The life cycle can vary and it ultimately is dependent upon replacing it, which as we know for thousands of faucets in literally hundreds of schools around the state, that’s not going to cut it.”

O’Malley says a new funding source is needed to replace the aging water pipes in schools.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.