TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law on Thursday requiring water utilities to replace all lead pipes providing drinking water (called “service lines”) within the next decade.
Gov. Murphy also signed three other lead-related bills, including real estate disclosure of lead pipes or plumbing, free lead testing for lead in water and lead paint disclosures. New Jersey has more than 300,000 lead service lines. According to the EPA, there is no safe level of lead, especially for children and pregnant women, and exposure can lead to long-term neurological impacts, learning disabilities, and other health problems. In response to drastic lead contamination, the city of Newark replaced more than 20,000 lead pipes in less than three years.
The new law adds momentum to national efforts to replace all lead service lines in the next decade. Removing lead from drinking water has been included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Smith and the INVEST Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Yet the bipartisan infrastructure framework currently does not include the $45 billion needed to remove all these pipes across the nation.
In response, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said:
“Lead service lines have been a silent threat in our communities for generations, tainting drinking water and harming the most vulnerable populations – pregnant women and young children. Thousands of children suffer from elevated levels of lead across the state – and countless others have lead in their blood – which has direct developmental impacts. More than two years after Gov. Murphy committed to a comprehensive action plan to reduce lead poisoning, this package of bills is a huge step forward toward eliminating lead as a public health menace."
John Rumpler, Clean Water program director for Environment America, said:
"By ordering removal of the single largest source of lead contamination of our drinking water, New Jersey has acted decisively to get the lead out. The step was urgently needed, long overdue, and overwhelmingly supported by the public. Congress should include the full $45 billion needed to replace these toxic pipes in its final infrastructure package, and the U.S. EPA should follow New Jersey in mandating their removal in ten years as it updates the lead and copper rule.”
Matt Casale, PIRG environment campaigns director, said:
“We applaud New Jersey for taking this important step to get the lead out of drinking water. There is no reason to keep putting our communities at risk of long-term health problems such as learning disabilities and anemia. Now, Congress needs to follow New Jersey’s lead and fund national programs to protect all of our nation’s people and communities from this highly toxic substance.”