First analysis of N.J. school water tests could indicate widespread lead contamination

 Gov. Chris Christie last year ordered all New Jersey schools to test drinking water for lead. The deadline to complete testing was last week. (AP file photo)

Gov. Chris Christie last year ordered all New Jersey schools to test drinking water for lead. The deadline to complete testing was last week. (AP file photo)

An analysis by an environmental group finds that 55 percent of the water in schools in New Jersey’s most populous county show some level of lead contamination.

Schools had until last week to test their water for lead; Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley said Monday he  believes the results in Bergen County are a preview of what will be found statewide.

It’s a wakeup call for the state to subsidize replacement of school water fountains and fixtures that contain lead, he said.

“That’s the fundamental issue here. We can’t just stop with testing. We need to have full remediation of lead,” O’Malley said. “And we should have an expectation that no kid in New Jersey should go to school and expect there to be lead coming out of a drinking water fountain.”

However, said Sen. Bob Gordon, it will be a challenge to find the money to get rid of the lead problem.

“Dealing with the contaminants that are in the water — lead and other things — will probably cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “And I’m not sure where the money is going to come from, but I believe it needs to become a state priority.”

Gordon, D-Bergen, said the federal government will have to get involved.

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