Menendez, Booker, Sires, Payne Call on EPA to Provide Additional Resources for Newark Residents Affected by Lead Exposure

Menendez, Booker, Sires, Payne Call on EPA to Provide Additional Resources for Newark Residents Affected by Lead Exposure

   

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, along with Congressmen Albio Sires (N.J.-08) and Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10) today called on the Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist state and local efforts in delivering safe drinking water to Newark residents following sampling results from 3 homes last week that concluded the levels of lead from 2 homes exceeded the drinking water standard.

In a letter to Peter Lopez, EPA Regional Administrator for Region 2, the Senators and Representatives urged the agency to identify additional resources and wrote:

“Given your commitment to safeguard the residents of Newark and to advance the goal of protecting public health and the environment, we respectfully request your immediate assistance in identifying any and all options to provide not only technical assistance, but on the ground support and resources in Newark until further analysis is concluded and a solution to these new concerns is implemented. This includes, but is not limited to, the deployment of bottled water to the city for distribution to affected residents.”

The letter also noted that the EPA had previously vouched for the reliability of the water filters, citing a peer reviewed study on the effectiveness of the filters in removing lead in drinking water.

Each year, Sen. Menendez fights for robust funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low cost financing for a wide range of water infrastructure development projects in New Jersey and across the country. The SRFs have been a focal point in efforts to address the lead crisis in drinking water across the country. In FY19, the two SRFs were appropriated a nearly a combined $3 billion.

Sen. Menendez also supports the WIFIA water infrastructure credit assistance program. In FY19, the program was funded at $7.3 billion, a $600 million increase from the previous year.

The FY19 appropriations bill provided $25 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, an increase of $5 million from the year before. The senator has continuously been supportive of grant programs targeted at lead contamination.

Sen. Menendez has also ensured drinking water safety in the Water Resources Development Act, which is reauthorized every other year. The WRDA bill signed into law last fall included money for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The WRDA bill also expands the lead in schools testing program to provide schools with additional assistance to address lead contamination, including the replacement of drinking water fountains.

In response to the Flint water crisis, Sen. Menendez introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act in 2016, which would stimulate billions of dollars in private-sector investment to fund much-needed, large-scale repairs and upgrades to our water systems. The bill modifies the federal tax code to remove caps on the issuances of government private activity bonds (PABs) for water and wastewater projects. Currently, annual volume cap exemptions exist for PAB financing of airports, seaports and certain intercity rail projects.

This past May, Sen. Menendez introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act. The bill would ensure that families and children living in federally assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning by adopting primary prevention measures to protect children in low-income housing. The senator first introduced this bill in 2016 at a press conference held at a public housing complex in Jersey City.

A full copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Regional Administrator Lopez:

We write in regard to recent drinking water sampling results taken on August 6 at two Newark residences. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these results concluded that a number of samples, taken from filtered water, had levels of lead that exceed the applicable federal and state drinking water standard. As a result, EPA has called on the City of Newark and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to advise residents with known or suspected lead service lines to use bottled water for drinking and cooking until further notice. As the City of Newark and the State of New Jersey take steps to ensure the safety of Newark residents, we write to request additional assistance from EPA in those efforts. 

 

The State of New Jersey has provided bottled water supplies to the City of Newark, and distribution has already begun. While the expanded sampling of filtration devices is underway, the primary concern of all parties is the safety and well-being of Newark’s residents and the need to limit vulnerable populations’ potential yet unnecessary exposure to lead in filtered water. The DEP has expressed to EPA that their emergency water supplies are limited and has requested additional support from EPA. While we appreciate the technical assistance EPA has provided to the City of Newark to date, we urge EPA to identify additional resources to offer assistance in providing bottled water to Newark residents in order to ensure a sustained source of clean drinking water while further sampling is conducted.

It is our understanding that EPA worked with the DEP and the City of Newark while the city’s plan to distribute filters to affected residences was developed and implemented. In DEP and Newark’s technical consultation with EPA, the agency previously spoke to the reliability of the water filters, citing a peer reviewed study on the effectiveness of the filters in removing lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan. In light of sampling results exceeding standards in two of three filters tested in the City of Newark, DEP and the city, at EPA’s urging and out of an abundance of caution, have taken immediate action and invested resources to implement a solution. We believe you have a shared responsibility to be a part of that solution.

Given your commitment to safeguard the residents of Newark and to advance the goal of protecting public health and the environment, we respectfully request your immediate assistance in identifying any and all options to provide not only technical assistance, but on the ground support and resources in Newark until further analysis is concluded and a solution to these new concerns is implemented. This includes, but is not limited to, the deployment of bottled water to the city for distribution to affected residents. Our offices stand ready to assist in those efforts and any efforts to protect the city and its residents from further unnecessary exposure. We appreciate your time and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Press Contact

Chris_Flores@menendez.senate.gov