Booker Bill to Help Communities Get Lead Out of Drinking Water Signed into Law
Legislation would provide states with financial flexibility to advance pressing drinking water infrastructure projectsOctober 4, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, legislation authored by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of Environment and Public Works Committee, was signed into law. The Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act would give states facing a threat to public health from lead in drinking water the flexibility to make a one-time transfer of the federal funds in their Clean Water State Revolving Fund to their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects that will remove lead from drinking water.
“With today’s signing of the Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act, millions of federal dollars are now available to help communities fund pressing drinking water projects,” Sen. Booker, who lives in Newark, said. “Every day, children and families are facing the realities of our country’s aging infrastructure and worrying about the safety of their drinking water. The federal government has a responsibility to restore their peace of mind and this legislation will give states desperately needed resources to repair and upgrade their drinking water systems.”
“I am grateful to the many people who helped get this legislation over the finish line. Environmental injustices like lead in drinking water threaten our most vulnerable neighbors and I will not stop until every American has clean drinking water flowing into their homes,” Booker concluded.
(HIGH QUALITY AUDIO OF BOOKER’S STATEMENT CAN BE FOUND HERE.)
“The federal government has a duty and an obligation to ensure that each family in New Jersey and across our country has access to safe, clean drinking water, and I’m glad that we were able to come together and get this important legislation signed into law,” Sen. Menendez said. “Many of our communities are grappling with the challenges of aging water infrastructure in dire need of an upgrade. This legislation allows New Jersey to tap much needed federal funding to address the situation in Newark and surrounding communities, as well as others across the state. Giving states that added flexibility allows them to more quickly, efficiently and effectively respond to residents’ needs. I am proud to work with Senator Booker in not just fighting for the critical resources New Jersey needs, but holding those federal agencies accountable for ensuring the health and well-being of our 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 has worked tirelessly in the Senate to help the city get the federal resources it needs to fix the problem. In December, Booker urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to include this measure he authored to provide a source of funding for Newark in a 2018 end-of-year spending bill. The measure wasn’t included in that spending deal, so Booker introduced the measure as a stand-alone bill in May and pushed its passage through the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he sits on, in June. The Committee filed a written report on the bill in July 2019.
Also 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. When the Senate returned from August recess, the legislation passed unanimously and moved to the House of Representatives where Booker worked closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the New Jersey House delegation to ensure the legislation was quickly acted upon.
Since additional serious concerns over the lead in drinking water in Newark were reported in August, Booker has aggressively and repeatedly pushed the federal government to provide more resources for the city. He has helped pass out bottled water to affected residents and he met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez to discuss EPA’s duty and on-the-ground efforts in Newark. He also—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 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 to the EPA urging it to assist state and local efforts to deliver safe drinking water to Newark residents.