NEWARK, NJ - The state is a pen stroke away from being able to utilize some $100 million in federal funds to help replace Newark's lead pipes.
Legislation that would free the money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund cleared the U.S. House on Tuesday.
A measure that was brought to the floor by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, now awaits President Trump's signature.
“Every American has a right to clean drinking water, but my home state of New Jersey has been the latest to discover that our outdated and deteriorating infrastructure is simply not up to the task," Pallone said in a statement issued late Tuesday. "It is unacceptable – and a testament to the need for federal action – that Newark’s residents have been living with elevated levels of lead in their water. Federal funds exist to help communities like those in New Jersey, but for some states, that funding is constrained from being used to address lead contamination."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended that Newark distribute bottled water after two of three homes with filters tested for elevated levels of lead.
The root of the issue has been traced to aging pipes that flake.
“Today the House acted unanimously to change that, giving New Jersey the flexibility and resources it needs to replace lead pipes and give the people of Newark the clean water they deserve," Pallone said. " I am proud to have expedited passage of this important legislation through the House and grateful for my colleagues’ urgent attention to this public health crisis."
Last year, Pallone negotiated inclusion of several critical provisions for addressing lead contamination in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, including establishment of a grant program to fund the monitoring and replacement of leaded drinking water fountains in schools. The legislation also provided a substantial increase in funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, from $1 billion to $1.95 billion.