Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-29) said high levels of lead in about 17 Newark schools have the City of Newark and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) working to determine the source of lead contamination.
Spencer, chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, said the schools remain open, but students are not allowed to drink the water. The DEP tests annually for lead in the water. Last week, discolored water in the Central Ward prompted a step-up of testing, the assemblywoman said.
Spencer attended this afternoon’s press conference with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
In the midst of the crisis, state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) took aim at Governor Chris Christie, who’s on vacation this week and attending Mets spring training camp in Florida.
“Nobody’s listening,” Rice said. “He’ll talk crap about the mayor, but we can’t get help here. I’m getting tired of this stuff. This guy’s bitter. He was already mean-spirited but now he’s mad. It’s going to be a nasty two years with this guy. We’re talking about rust in the pipe lines. The school system is run by the state. The state is involved. The state and the legislature might have to come up with emergency money. We have to talk.
“The governor deserves to celebrate with his family, but as public officials, when things get serious, we readjust our schedules,” the senator added. “I really believe he should be here. I really think he needs to come back or at least when he comes back we need to sit down and address this. Lead is becoming a priority issue in New Jersey and we can’t let these kids continue to be brain damaged.”
Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ chapter of the Sierra Club said the pipes in the street go back 100 years, and said it could be the lead joints or the pipes themselves.
“This requires a much more thorough investigation to determine the cause,” Tittel said. “I’m hoping to hear where this lead is coming from so we can figure out what’s causing this. Lead is a serious neuro-toxin. Dangerous.”