BLOOMFIELD, NJ- Discussing the findings of recent lead testing in some resident homes was the subject of a Special Public Meeting hosted by Mayor Michael J. Venezia and the Township Council tonight (Monday, August 13) in the Media Center at Bloomfield Middle School.
 
Township Engineer Paul D. Lasek, Township Administrator Matthew Watkins and Township Director of Health and Human Services Karen Lore spoke to residents about what they can do to reduce risk of lead exposure.  Public questions were also answered.
 
Also present at the forum were Mayor Venezia, First-Ward Councilwoman Jenny Mundell, Second-Ward Councilman Nicholas Joanow, Third-Ward Councilwoman Sarah Cruz, Councilwoman-At-Large Wartyna Davis, Councilman-At-Large Ted Gamble and Fire Chief Lou Venezia.
 
 
“We are here in full transparency to educate residents, offer solutions and make recommendations regarding what you can do,” said Matthew Watkins.  “It’s important that we eradicate lead from our environment.”
 
Last week, Bloomfield announced that recent tests of 61 local homes found 46 samples passed all state regulations, while 15 exhibited elevated lead levels.  This is most likely due to old infrastructure within the homes such as lead piping or lead contained within older faucets and plumbing fixtures, not the township’s water supply.
 
The testing is part of the Township’s lead sampling program which is required by the EPA and NJDEP to sample for lead, as well as a continued effort by the township to proactively identify lead risks and help residents reduce their chances of lead exposure through public outreach.
 
“The Township, the Department of Engineering and the Department of Health are working to help residents become more aware of lead threats and how to reduce their risk of lead exposure,” said Paul Lasek.  “We have done extensive testing on the township’s water supply which did not detect elevated lead levels, but household testing is continuing to show that some older homes in the community still have lead-based plumbing fixtures, which can cause lead buildup in water.”

 
High lead levels found in drinking water can often be attributed to older infrastructure within the houses, as is the case with most communities which have older houses that have not received full plumbing replacements in recent years.  The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter the water, especially hot water.
 
“The lead can find its way into the water from the fixtures and that’s what we are trying to let residents know,” added Watkins.
 
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.
 
NJ Department of Environmental Protection and EPA mandates require municipalities to issue public notices if tests show elevated lead levels.  Township officials will continue to test lead levels over the next year and will be taking several steps to inform residents of the situation.
 
“We get our water from Newark and it’s tested all the time – twice in the past year, and there has been no trace of lead coming into the Township,” Watkins stressed.  “But we are still being proactive.”
 
No cases of lead poisoning from contaminated water exposure have been reported in Bloomfield, and township schools were recently tested for lead and levels were below legal limits.
 
The Health Department is encouraging residents to take steps to reduce their risk of lead exposure by following EPA guidelines and flushing their faucets for 15-30 seconds before drinking water and using lead certified water filters.
 
“We can all take simple steps to reduce our risk of lead exposure and we are available to any resident who has any questions about these precautions,” said Karen Lore.  “Running water for 15-30 seconds before drinking, using cold water only for cooking and using water filtration devices are all simple things we can all do to make sure our families are protected.”
 
Lasek added, “When you run your water and you feel it getting colder, you know it’s flushed properly and now coming from the main line.”
 
The Water Department will be mailing public education information next week to all water customers, as well as providing this information on the township website.  It is recommended that residents thoroughly read the information to better understand the sources, causes and solutions to addressing lead.
 
“Lead is not just found in water – it’s a very small percentage,” explained Watkins.  “Most lead contamination comes from paint.”
 
Lore then explained, “When lead paint chips off or cracks, it can be absorbed as those chips or dust can be inhaled and enter your system.  That’s why children ages 5 and under should be tested.”
 
The Township is continuing to offer free lead tests to any residents concerned about potential lead build-up in their homes.  Residents can schedule a test or get additional information by calling 973-680-4009.
 
“We will work with you and advise you, as Karen (Lore) has been getting state and federal money to help with our testing,” Watkins said in addressing a public comment.  “We’re here to find the lead, not just in water but wherever it may be and to have it addressed and help remediate.”
 
It was recommended that water filters for sinks are NSF Standard 53 to take out the lead.  More information can be found at NSF.org.