Gottheimer calls on Suez to address lead in water

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Following the tests of elevated lead in the water as reported in Bergen County on Wednesday, Jan. 16, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), once again, called for immediate action to address the threat of lead in drinking water and the serious risks it poses for children and families in the local community.

Suez, a major private water utility in the state, said Wednesday they found water samples from multiple customers of its Haworth have shown elevated levels of lead. Suez said that 57 municipalities in Bergen and Hudson counties are affected by the tainted water.

Gottheimer also spoke with and sent a letter to SUEZ North America CEO Eric Gernath, asking for his commitment to addressing the lead contamination. His requests included:

Provide “self assessment” information to customers, as many are unaware that they have lead pipes in their home;

Make the action plan required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection available to the public;

Review and revise your timetable to fully replace lead pipes. This should be done as soon as possible;

Send notifications to residents, as well as account holders, so that renters may have immediate access to information.

Ensure that information and test results shared with customers be provided in clear, easy to understand information.

Suez has made resources available for residents to learn about the incident and to learn if their home uses a lead service line.

During his first term, Gottheimer announced the bipartisan Lead-Free Schools Act. The Lead Free Schools Act redirects existing funding and amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to: increase testing for lead and contaminants in water at schools; promote transparency by making the results accessible to families online and 3. provide for a competitive grant program for the replacement of old fountains and infrastructure that may be leaching lead and other contaminants.

When children are exposed to lead, their development could be delayed, they face learning disabilities, and appetite and weight loss. In the worst cases, children could develop permanent damage to their kidneys and nervous systems. They could experience seizures, hearing loss, and vomiting. And the greatest risk is to brain development, with subtle and irreversible damage.

Gottheimer led parents, educators, and activists last year in calling on Governor Phil Murphy to make sure New Jersey schools are free of lead in our children’s drinking water. He also raised concerns that the state was not dedicating enough resources to schools directly to remove lead from students’ drinking water.

“In New Jersey, we are blessed with some of the best communities and schools in the country. Yet, here in the Fifth District, as we have seen in town after town and school after school, we still have water fountains, sinks and pipes that are generations old, and that have lead tainted water running through them. That’s unacceptable. I have personally called SUEZ and been in contact with the towns affected and we will support them in every way possible to remedy this in any way we can,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. "I don’t want any parent, here in Bergen County, the Fifth District, our state, or across the country, to have to worry if the water their child drinks contains lead. As parents, we have a right to know what’s in our kids water. We have a right to know that our children and our families will be safe.”

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