WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today applauded the unanimous passage of their Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act in the House of Representatives that will help communities across New Jersey and the country remove lead from drinking water. The Senate passed the bill unanimously last week.
“I am pleased that the House acted swiftly to follow the Senate’s lead and pass this common sense legislation,” Sen. Menendez said. “Our bill gives states like New Jersey added flexibility to tap needed federal funding to assist our communities grappling with the challenges of aging water infrastructure. I would implore President Trump to sign this legislation without delay in order to help the residents of Newark and its surrounding communities deal with the current situation of elevated lead in their drinking water. The federal government has a role in ensuring that each family has access to safe, clean drinking water. I will continue to fight for the critical resources New Jersey needs, while holding those federal agencies accountable for ensuring the health and well-being of our residents.”
“Last night’s passage of the Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act puts us one step closer to helping cities like Newark address the threat of lead in drinking water,” Sen. Booker said. “Every American should have access to safe, clean drinking water, and this legislation will allow New Jersey to provide Newark with substantial funding as Newark moves to rapidly replace lead service lines. Thank you Chairman Pallone and the New Jersey delegation for their work in quickly getting my legislation passed by the House of Representatives. I urge the President to sign this into law as soon as it reaches his desk to help states make critical repairs and upgrades to their aging drinking water systems.”
The Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act would give states facing public health crises from lead in drinking water the flexibility to make a one-time transfer, up to $100 million, of the federal funds in their Clean Water State Revolving Fund to their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects that will remove lead from drinking water.
New Jersey would be able to utilize this change by transferring federal funds from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to offset some of the $120 million bonding project to replace lead service lines in Newark. This flexibility would also allow the State to provide assistance to other municipalities in New Jersey to address the threat of lead in drinking water.
“Last night, the New Jersey delegation worked together to get Senator Booker’s legislation unanimously passed by the House of Representatives,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “States and municipalities can’t upgrade our nation’s aging water infrastructure alone and, once it is signed into law, this legislation will allow New Jersey to utilize up to $100 million in federal funds to help Newark and other cities fund the replacement of lead service lines. This is amazing news for our state and I applaud our congressional delegation for their efforts.”
“Last night's vote was a huge win for the City of Newark and many communities across the United States that are dealing with older, aging infrastructure,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “Thank you to New Jersey Senators Booker and Menendez for creating opportunities and solutions to fund critical projects that will help eliminate lead service lines and provide clean, safe and healthy water to countless families.”
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 at nearly a combined $3 billion.
After elevated lead levels were found in two homes in Newark last month, Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressmen Albio Sires (N.J.-08) and Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10) previously sent a letter calling on the EPA to assist state and local efforts in delivering safe drinking water to residents.
Sen. Menendez also led the call with Sen. Booker and Reps. Sires and Payne for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide critical resources to expand and administer lead blood screenings in Newark and other affected communities. They also separately urged the USDA to offer additional assistance to serve residents’ immediate needs by making temporary changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC).
Sen. Menendez has long supporting the WIFIA water infrastructure credit assistance program, which was funded at $7.3 billion in FY19, a $600 million increase from the previous year.
The FY19 appropriations bill provided $25 million for lead contamination testing at schools and childcare 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 authorized funding 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.
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.