National Problem: Lead Present in School Drinking Water in New Jersey

All schools in New Jersey are now required to test for lead in their drinking water.

All schools in New Jersey are now required to test for lead in their drinking water.

In our series highlighting lead in school drinking water we turn to New Jersey where a recent survey conducted by the New Jersey Future found that 137 out of 323 schools had lead exceeding 15 parts per billion (ppb) in school drinking water.   See the article from August 10, 2016 entitled Lead Found in School Drinking Water Across New Jersey for more information.


·      Data were found for 323 schools in 49 school districts across 12 counties in New Jersey. Of these, 137 schools found at least one point of discharge that exceeded the action level for lead, while 82 have pending test results or are in the process of scheduling water tests. Sixty-five schools reported that all points of discharge tested negative for lead. Thirty-nine schools stated that they had not tested for lead and had no plans yet to do so.

·      Newark Public School District had the greatest number of schools that exceeded the action level for lead at 29 out of 66 (44 percent), but Camden City Public School District had the highest percentage of schools exceed the action level at 79 percent (19 out of 24).

·      Newark Public School District also had the highest concentrations of lead at an average of 128 ppb, which is more than eight times the action level for lead in drinking water. The highest concentration of lead at a single point of discharge was found at Ivy Hill Elementary School in Newark, which had 1390 ppb, or more than 92 times the federal level.

FACT advocates for eliminating lead in school drinking water, the first step in this process is to test the water.  The 39 schools in NJ who failed to test their water are assuming that lead is not present in the water, which according to the above numbers is most likely not the case as almost half (1 out of 2) the schools tested had over 15 ppb of lead present in one or more drinking water sources.  As a parent this is infuriating, no one wants their child to be exposed to dangerous poison, yet that is what is happening in schools across the country.  The good news is that NJ is taking action and requiring all schools to test for lead within the next year and then to test again at least every 6 years.  New Jersey Water Works site is an excellent source for information on lead in NJ's drinking water and actions being taken to address the problem.  See FACT's article How to Protect Children from Lead in Water for more information on testing for lead in school drinking water.