Murphy signs package of bills regarding lead-poisoning prevention

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy reaffirmed his commitment to address lead exposure in New Jersey and its harmful effects on public health and child development by signing a package of bills aimed at protecting New Jersey’s families from lead poisoning. Murphy signed the package on July 22 in Bloomfield. The legislation, which will require regular inspections for, and the remediation of, lead-based paint hazards in residential rental properties and require the inventory, replacement and financing of lead service lines throughout the state within the next 10 years, will advance New Jersey as a national leader in lead poisoning prevention.

“In October of 2019, I put forth a multifaceted statewide plan to protect New Jersey’s children and families from the dangers of lead, and, today, we are taking a significant step forward in our strategy to reduce lead exposure in our homes,” Murphy said. “Modernizing our aging water infrastructure with new lead services lines is critical in ensuring safe drinking water flows through our communities. In addition to replacing service lines, we must also go further to protect those in older homes and apartments, where door jambs and window sashes may be coated in decades of layers of lead-based paints, creating fine particulates that are unknowingly inhaled and ingested. Today, we are taking the most aggressive action in the nation to reduce lead-based paint exposure in our homes and communities, which is a critical victory for public health and environmental justice, and advances New Jersey as a national leader in lead-poisoning prevention.” 

“Lead prevention is a priority in New Jersey, and Gov. Murphy and I are committed to reducing the threat of lead poisoning in water systems and in the state’s older housing stock, where lead-based paint is frequently found,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. “No child or adult should have to live with the detrimental and lasting health effects of lead poisoning. That is why DCA stands ready to develop an educational campaign about the hazards of lead and why controlling these hazards is so important. We are also dedicated to working with local governments to ensure improvements are made to water infrastructure and lead-safe inspections are conducted in all rental dwellings.” 

The governor signed the following three bills into law:

  • S1147/A1372, which requires lead paint inspection on certain residential rental property, including upon tenant turnover; establishes a lead-based paint hazard education program; and appropriates $3,900,000.
  • A5343/SS3398, which requires public community water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines within 10 years, and provides for recoupment of costs by investor-owned public water systems.
  • A5407/S3459, which removes restrictions on special assessments and bond issuances for replacement of residential lead service lines, and revises budgetary requirements for operators of certain water systems.

“New Jersey has become the fourth state in the nation to enact legislation targeted at ensuring our residential properties are free of lead-based paint, protecting our children against exposure,” said state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, who was a sponsor of S1147/A1372. “Within certain areas of the state, as many as 7.6 percent of children have elevated blood lead levels. This takes the first step in beginning to address the issue by identifying the properties in need of remediation and providing funding for landlords to remove this hazard before welcoming new tenants. This legislation has been years in the making, and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on families around the state.”

“To fight lead poisoning in our communities, we must take a more proactive approach to ensure older homes are inspected more regularly,” said Assemblymen Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly, Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji, who were also sponsors of S1147/A1372. “Oftentimes, lead is discovered to be in the home after someone has become sick and shows symptoms. It’s too late. Requiring lead inspections in all pre-1978 rental units at tenant turnover or every three years will help homeowners catch any problems that arise sooner (rather) than later. We can do more to protect New Jersey’s families and children from the effects of lead poisoning.” 

“I would like to commend Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for prioritizing the health of all New Jerseyans, especially children,” New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said. “Today we enact a solution to replace lead service lines, ensuring that all New Jersey residents have clean water to drink, something many of us take for granted and something so critical for the health and well-being of all of our communities and residents.” 

“These laws mark important steps forward in our continuing efforts to remove lead hazards in water, paint and dust in older housing stock,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “Lead is the most common environmental toxin for children, and even very low blood lead levels can cause permanent, irreversible neurologic damage. Children spent significantly more time at home during the pandemic, when elevated blood lead levels increased by 29 percent and lead testing decreased by 20 percent. We must do everything we can to remove lead from our environment.”

“Protecting New Jersey’s water and public health through rigorous water quality standards and infrastructure investments has been a key priority of the Murphy administration from day one,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said. “These new laws will accelerate our work to protect every New Jersey community by requiring every lead service line across the state to be replaced over the next 10 years. And New Jersey residents can rest assured that, while lead lines are replaced, DEP will be protecting their health every day by mandating all water systems to undertake proactive lead risk reduction measures.”