Payne, Rice, Baraka Call for Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water

April 11, 2016
Press Release

Newark, N.J. – Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and State Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) held a press conference at the LeRoy F. Smith, Jr. Public Safety Building in Newark to call for lead testing in schools’ drinking water and to urge Congress to pass Congressman Payne, Jr.’s TEST for Lead Act, which would require states to help schools test for lead if those states receive federal funding for safe water programs.

While some school districts test their drinking water for lead, they are not required to do so by law. The TEST for Lead Act aims to help close that gap.

“Children across America are being poisoned by lead in their schools’ drinking water,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “They are being robbed of their full potential and their basic right to safety. Meanwhile, Congress has neglected its duty to be a partner with state and local governments to crack down on lead in school drinking water. That is why the TEST for Lead Act is so important. I urge Congress to quickly pass this legislation so that we can meet the moral responsibility of protecting our children.”

“As a former educator, I understand the vital role that our schools play in the lives of our children and it’s important that these environments remain clean, healthy and safe,” stated Mayor Baraka. “The coalition that has been built among our federal, state and municipal delegations will ensure that there is accountability to the students, parents and communities affected by this situation.”

“I’m very happy that Congressman Payne, Jr. is taking leadership at the federal level to introduce this legislation,” said Sen. Rice. “Efforts to get this bill passed are important not just for New Jersey, but for the country as a whole. Lead contamination in water is an issue that has surfaced throughout the country. There is more awareness now because of Michigan and because of New Jersey schools. In New Jersey, we’re trying to move legislation to address the issue, and it makes sense to take action at the federal level. I commend the Congressman for his efforts.”

At the press conference, Congressman Payne, Jr. noted that companion legislation is also being introduced today in the U.S. Senate by Senator Cory Booker.

"Under no circumstance should the health and safety of our children be jeopardized by water quality, particularly in a school,” Sen. Booker said. “America’s failure to adequately invest in our infrastructure helped cause the crisis of lead in our drinking water. This national problem demands a federal response. Ensuring that schools are systematically testing for lead in drinking water and making parents and officials aware of lead's presence will help keep kids safe. I am pleased to introduce this bill in the Senate and will work hard to advance it. Every American has a right to clean, safe drinking water.”

The TEST for Lead Act, or Transparent Environment in School Testing for Lead Act:

  • Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to condition a State’s receipt of funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which provides federal funding for safe water programs, on the State carrying out a program to test for lead in drinking water for schools.
  • Requires schools to test drinking water, including water from faucets used for food preparation, sinks in bathrooms, and water fountains, at least biannually at schools built prior to 1996 and at least annually at schools built in 1996 or after.
  • Requires local education agencies with jurisdiction over the schools to notify parents, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State within 48 hours if a level of lead that exceeds a lead action level, as identified by the EPA, is discovered.