ASSEMBLY ENVIRONMENT AND SOLID WASTE COMMITTEE
ASSEMBLY, No. 3539
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: APRIL 4, 2016
The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 3539.
This bill would require public and nonpublic schools to test for and remediate lead in drinking water, and disclose their test results.
Specifically, under the bill, each school district, charter school, and nonpublic school would be required to undertake periodic testing of each drinking water outlet in each school for the presence of lead. The bill defines “drinking water outlet” to mean any water fountain, faucet, or tap regularly used for drinking or food preparation, including ice-making and hot drink machines.
The tests would be conducted by a certified laboratory in accordance with the sampling and testing methods specified in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) technical guidance for reducing lead in drinking water at schools, or more protective guidance issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The initial tests would be conducted no later than 90 days after the effective date of the bill, and subsequent tests would be conducted every five years thereafter, unless the DEP determines, on a case-by-case basis, that more or less frequent testing is necessary or sufficient to protect the public health.
A school district, charter school, or nonpublic school may obtain an exemption from the requirement to conduct initial testing if it demonstrates to the DEP that it has conducted testing that substantially complies with the technical guidance within two years prior to the effective date of the bill, and any drinking water outlet that was found to have an elevated lead level has either been removed from service or remediated. Under the bill, a school district, charter school, or nonpublic school may seek the assistance of a local health agency or public water system to help ensure compliance with the bill. Nothing in the bill would prevent a school district, charter school, or nonpublic school from conducting more frequent testing than required by the bill. The testing requirements would not apply to a school district, charter school, or nonpublic school that is considered a public water system under federal law and meets the applicable standards for lead in drinking water. (Public water systems already have lead testing requirements under the law.)
If testing conducted pursuant to the bill reveals an elevated lead level at a drinking water outlet, the school district, charter school, or nonpublic school would be required to immediately close off access to that outlet and report the test results to the DEP. The school district, charter school, or nonpublic school, in consultation with the DEP, would be required to conduct follow-up testing to determine the source of the lead, and take appropriate remedial measures to ensure that students are not exposed to water with an elevated lead level and have access to free, fresh, and clean drinking water. Remedial measures may include permanently shutting or closing off access to the drinking water outlet, providing an alternative source of water, manual or automatic flushing, installing and maintaining a filter, and replacing outlets, plumbing, or service lines contributing to the elevated lead level.
Under the bill, each school district, charter school, and nonpublic school would be required to submit to the DEP, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health information on its testing activities, including the date the testing was completed, the location and type of each drinking water outlet tested, the results of each test, and any measures being taken to remediate a drinking water outlet found to have an elevated lead level. School districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools would be required to maintain copies of this information in a suitable location and on their Internet websites, and notify relevant parent, teacher, and employee organizations of the availability of the information. School districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools would also be required to designate a person to serve as the contact person for communications with the DEP and the public. If test results reveal an elevated lead level at a drinking water outlet, the school would be required to immediately notify teachers, other school personnel, and parents directly.
The bill would require the DEP, within 30 days after the effective date of the bill, to provide to each school district, charter school, and nonpublic school with the EPA’s technical guidance for reducing lead in drinking water at schools, a summary of the sampling and testing methods contained in the technical guidance, a list of each laboratory in the State certified to conduct lead testing, and any other information the DEP deems relevant.