FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
More Than 130 Signatures Urge Investment of $600 Million in Lead Remediation
Advocates and community members request funding as part of comprehensive infrastructure overhaul.
Heather Sorge | Lead-Free NJ Program Manager
TRENTON, March 2, 2022 — The Lead-Free NJ collaborative delivered a letter to Governor Murphy, Senate President Scutari, and Assembly Speaker Coughlin on Wednesday calling for the allocation of $600 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds toward lead remediation. More than 130 signatories, including statewide policy organizations, environmental advocates, and community members, expressed their support for the investment, which will particularly benefit children in communities of color and lower-income communities across the state.
“Every dollar invested in lead remediation is a dollar invested in New Jersey children and families—in the future of our state,” Lead-Free NJ Co-chair Rashan Prailow said. “Lead-contaminated water, paint, and soil severely detriment children’s health outcomes and opportunities, especially in the communities of color and lower-income communities that disproportionately bear the burden of legacy environmental hazards. By allocating ARP funds to lead remediation, lead service line replacement, and education, the State can demonstrate its continued commitment to rectifying these enduring legacies.”
Earlier this month, the City of Newark announced the completion of its lead service line (LSL) replacement program, which has been heralded across the country as a step toward mitigating systemic environmental inequities. Many advocates, however, underscore the urgency of further action.
“Newark should only be viewed as the starting point on our path toward environmental justice,” Lead-Free NJ Co-chair Debbie Mans said. “In order for the city’s accomplishment to serve as a model, funds need to be made available to communities across the state to address lead service lines, especially low- and moderate-income communities. Using ARP monies for these critical public health investments is the smart and responsible thing to do.”
Of the $600 million requested by Lead-Free NJ, $300 million would be allocated toward LSL replacement, with priority for low-income communities containing a large number of LSLs. Up to $15 million of these funds could be dedicated to improving drinking water quality in state-regulated child care facilities, including $10 million for replacing lead pipes and internal plumbing and $5 million for communications, training, and remediation plans.
“It is good to be part of the collective voice of Lead-Free NJ that represents communities from throughout NJ, especially New Jersey residents from our older, urban communities who experience disproportionate environmental impacts from lead products used long ago,” said Elyse Pivnick, Senior Director of Environmental Health at Isles, Inc. “Our request to the Governor and NJ Legislature to use one-time American Rescue Plan funding for lead paint remediation and lead service line replacement will make a substantial dent in removing lead hazards still found in our state’s oldest housing and water lines.”
The remaining $300 million in requested funds would be allocated toward whole home remediation, focusing on lead-based paint, interior plumbing, and soil remediation in low- and moderate-income housing.
“We urge New Jersey’s officials to use available federal funding to end the childhood lead poisoning epidemic. We can and must stop using our children as lead detectors,” said Staci Berger, President & CEO of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey. “The lifetime health, social, and emotional costs of childhood lead poisoning far outweigh the price tag of crucial investments that keep our children safe from lead paint in their homes and lead in their drinking water. This is especially true now that funding is available from the American Rescue Plan. New Jersey should be proactive by making investments that will finally eradicate this irreversible, but completely preventable, childhood health crisis.”
“We should be able to get all lead service lines replaced in Trenton at no cost to customers, especially in legacy lead communities,” said Shereyl Snider, East Trenton Collaborative community organizer. “Too many young Trenton children are affected with elevated blood lead levels because of peeling lead paint chips in many Trenton homes built before the 1900s. It’s time we use any funding available to save our children from lead exposure and get the lead out of Trenton.”
“I spend a lot of money on purchasing water because the lead galvanized pipes are all throughout my house,” said one East Trenton resident, who chose to remain anonymous. “I am a senior citizen with a lot of health issues already. I don’t want lead poisoning to be another issue.”
Lead-Free NJ was founded in 2021 as an equitable and inclusive collaborative. The organization works to ensure that New Jersey’s children are free from lead poisoning and that our environment is lead-safe by advocating for changes to state and local policy. Lead-Free NJ seeks to eliminate racial and economic inequities by focusing on legacy lead hazards in low-income communities and/or communities of color, while also creating the conditions for children to be free from lead poisoning statewide.