Hearing on Flint Water Crisis takes place as lead is detected at numerous New Jersey schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned state of Michigan and federal government officials about the Flint Water crisis and what needs to be done to address widespread problems of lead poisoning in children in communities across the nation. The hearing comes after numerous reports of lead being detected at New Jersey schools. In February, Pallone introduced the AQUA Act, which significantly increases water infrastructure funding authorization so local communities can repair and replace their aging water systems to ensure residents have access to clean and safe drinking water.

“This hearing is an opportunity to address how we move forward and ensure that anyone impacted has access to support and assistance as long as necessary,” said Pallone.  “We must decide what is needed to fix Flint’s infrastructure and address the potential impacts lead contamination may have on Flint’s children, which will take years.” 

“In New Jersey, the Newark school system has ordered that water be turned off at 30 schools due to the presence of lead.  Flint reminds us that if we fail to properly invest in health and safety the consequences can be devastating, and, in many instances, we will need to invest even more resources in response if we wait.   We must act now to ensure Americans throughout the country do not suffer from these same problems.”

In February, Pallone led his colleagues in sending a letter to Cathleen Bennett, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDH), asking for more information on the federal funding the state receives to help detect dangerous levels of lead in communities. Pallone asked for information on exactly how these funds are used and if additional resources are needed to combat this serious public health challenge. The Christie administration has not responded to the letter.

Last month, Pallone sent letters to the New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Department of Human Services raising questions about the management of a program to provide lead poisoning screenings for pregnant women, children, and uninsured adults in counties impacted by Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey earmarked $11.7 million of  funding for increasing access to blood lead screening and case management to address “new environmental hazards in New Jersey Homes” created by Hurricane Sandy. Yet, it appears that the state has only tested a fraction of the 220,000 individuals that it planned to screen annually for lead poisoning.  As of December 2015 the state had only tested 14,150 individuals. The Christie administration has not responded to the letters.