Education Law Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), working with the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) and other Newark groups, demanded that the State reopen the 2016 Potential Emergent Projects Program (PEPP) to include lead remediation and plumbing projects in Newark.
Despite responding affirmatively to an earlier ELC demand for a new round of emergent projects funding for New Jersey’s urban school districts, the State then improperly excluded plumbing and lead remediation projects from funding eligibility.
The thirty-one urban districts, known as SDA districts under the State school construction program, were invited to submit their emergent projects for funding by the end of the summer. An emergent project is necessary to address a building condition that causes an imminent peril to the health and safety of students and staff, such as roof leaks, broken fire alarms, boiler replacements or crumbling building facades.
This year, reports showed that the Newark Public Schools (NPS), which have been under state control for more than 20 years, have elevated lead levels in more than 80 percent of district school facilities. Community groups, including the ICC, met with NPS Superintendent Christopher Cerf and urged him to apply to the 2016 PEPP for funding for the district’s proposed lead remediation work. However, in an August 30 response to the ICC, Superintendent Cerf revealed, “The State and SDA clearly indicated to the district that any and all assessments or remediation efforts for lead would not be funded by the Emergent Project Process.”
“There is no legal basis to exclude lead remediation from State funding,” said ELC Executive Director David Sciarra.
“Until lead filtration systems are installed, students and staff who occupy schools – where current plumbing systems leach enough lead to exceed the federal action level by as much as 100 times – continue to face an existing, actual peril to their health and safety,” said Sara Imperiale, NRDC Environmental Justice Attorney.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal of zero lead in drinking water “based on the best available science which shows there is no safe level of exposure to lead.”
“Children in Newark face multiple health challenges due to cumulative impacts from environmental burdens, including poor air quality causing asthma and lost school time,” said Joseph Della Fave, Executive Director of the ICC. “This lead issue further endangers the health of our children and, as parents have demanded, must be confronted and corrected.”
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications