Booker Meets with EPA Officials to Discuss Lead Exposure in Newark
Booker pushes EPA to commit more federal resources to help residents, city, and state respondAugust 20, 2019
NEWARK, N.J.—Yesterday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez to discuss EPA’s duty and on-the-ground efforts to remedy Newark’s ongoing water issues.
“As Regional Administrator Lopez and I discussed yesterday, EPA has a shared responsibility in bringing safe, clean drinking water to the residents of Newark,” Booker said. “I hope that EPA will make a good faith effort to fulfill their commitment of getting additional federal resources on the ground. Newark residents, including myself, are counting on all levels of government to work together to find solutions as quickly as possible.”
During the meeting, Booker pushed EPA to:
- Provide staff on the ground to assist Newark and the state in conducting efficient and timely sampling of Newark’s drinking water filters.
- Work quickly with local and state officials to finalize the specifics on the sampling effort and to communicate those efforts clearly with the public.
- Commit additional resources to help communicate with Newark residents of all languages on the risks of lead exposure and how to best protect themselves.
In the meeting, EPA committed to looking into their ability to provide those additional resources this week. In discussions with the agency, Booker pushed EPA to expand technical assistance, federal lab use for testing, and to consider all options for delivering clean water to Newark residents.
Also on Monday, Booker – along with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) – urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help administer lead blood screenings for affected residents in Newark. That request followed a separate letter, Booker sent last week with New Jersey lawmakers urging the USDA to offer additional assistance to serve the immediate needs of Newark residents by making temporary changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC).
The lawmakers also sent a letter last week to the EPA urging it to assist state and local efforts to deliver safe drinking water to Newark residents.
Since an engineering study was released in October 2018 finding that lead was leaching into Newark’s drinking water because of ineffective corrosion treatment at one of the City’s water treatment plants, Booker, who lives in Newark, has worked tirelessly in the Senate to help the city get the federal resources it needs to fix the problem. Booker urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to include a measure he authored that would provide a source of funding for Newark to completely replace over 15,000 aging lead service lines in a 2018 end-of-year spending bill. After the measure wasn’t included in that spending deal, he introduced it as a stand-alone bill in Congress – called the Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act – and successfully pushed the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to hold a vote on the bill, which it did on June 19; Booker’s bill passed unanimously. Last month, the Committee filed a written report on the bill. In June, Booker worked to include the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which was moving through the Senate, but it was blocked by Republicans. Booker then worked to “hot-line” the bill for Senate passage before Congress broke for recess in early August, but the effort was again blocked by Republicans. Bills can be “hot-lined” for passage, which means they do not need to come to a vote on the Senate floor, if no Senator raises objections to the bill.