News Releases from Region 02

06/11/2021

Newark, N.J – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a community roundtable discussion with organizers representing Newark, New Jersey to highlight the city’s challenges with lead in drinking water. This roundtable discussion, along with nine others being held across the country, is essential to informing EPA’s review of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) revisions to ensure that the rule is grounded in the lived experience of individuals and communities that are most at-risk of exposure to lead in drinking water.

“The residents of Newark have firsthand experience with how disconcerting and troubling lead in drinking water can be for people who ultimately only want to protect themselves and their families. Importantly, they also saw their local, state and federal governments combine forces to take action to respond to the crisis, so they have a unique view of what policies may be helpful to other communities that face these same issues,” said EPA Region 2 Acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “Addressing a public health challenge like this requires partnerships and strong leaders and I want to thank the community groups that organized this roundtable, as well as Newark’s elected officials for their leadership on this important issue.”

“I commend the Biden Administration and EPA for engaging communities who have been impacted by lead contamination as they work to review the Trump Administration’s Lead and Copper Rule. It is vital that federal policies align with the needs of our communities, providing necessary guidance and resources to protect public health and allowing governments to be responsive to contamination when it occurs,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. “Senator Booker and I have worked hard to secure federal funding to help the state and local communities provide residents access to clean and safe drinking water.  I look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration, my colleagues in Congress, and stakeholders in New Jersey to ensure that every American has access to clean, lead-free drinking water.”

“The lead crisis facing communities across our country is a threat to our public health and an issue of environmental justice,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Many communities don’t have access to clean drinking water, and disproportionately those communities are home to low-income people and people of color. I was proud to help deliver tens of millions of dollars to help states like New Jersey address the threat of lead in drinking water, and remain committed to fighting for federal resources to protect the health of our children and families.”

“I have been proud of the efforts in Newark and Essex County to replace dangerous water pipes and improve the drinking water for all residents,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “But now that the water is cleaner, we need to find solutions to keep it clean and avoid further contamination.  I established a program to test for lead in public schools that became law in 2016 and I’m working to create stronger measures to keep lead out of drinking water nationwide. I commend the EPA for organizing this roundtable and look forward to hearing about the results.”

“The City of Newark and EPA have been working closely together for many years to protect the health of Newark residents and ensure the wellbeing of our environment. I am grateful our local leaders, environmental justice advocates and community-based organizations have been included in this important rule-making process,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Our city is leading the nation with our model lead service line replacement program that has removed the risk of corrosion from lead service lines through extensive local partnership building and innovative financing. We appreciate the opportunity to work with our federal partners on smart solutions that protect our residents.”

“The road to Newark’s success was not a smooth one, first the schools then individual homes. In the end, we all worked together to leverage the funds needed to fully replace more than 18,000 lead service lines within 30 months,” said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action. “Newark’s accomplishments are unprecedented and very repeatable. We want to send a strong message to the EPA, State and Congress that we need to be as protective as possible as fast as possible when it comes to lead in drinking water. It takes both the political will and equitable funding tools to ensure that everyone regardless of their zip code, color of their skin or income has safe and affordable drinking water at the tap.”

The community roundtable will start at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). Participants are expected to include representatives of Clean Water Action; Newark Water and Sewer Department; City of Newark; Newark Public Schools; New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; the Newark Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Urban League of Essex County; Newark Water Coalition; Newark Education Workers Caucus, South Ward Environmental Alliance and the Newark Environmental Commission.

Additional information on the virtual roundtable, including how to watch, is available at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/lead-and-copper-rule-revisions-virtual-engagements.

Background

Lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. EPA is committed to following the best science to address lead in the nation’s drinking water and will take the appropriate time to review the LCR Revisions and make sure communities that have been impacted the most are protected. In March of this year, EPA announced an extension of the effective date of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule so that the agency could seek further public input on the rule. The agency hosted virtual public listening sessions on April 28, 2021, and May 5, 2021. On May 26, 2021, EPA announced the ten communities that were selected for virtual roundtable discussions on EPA’s LCR Revisions. Members of the public may also submit comments via the docket at: http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0255 until June 30, 2021.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/eparegion2

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