Above: Gottheimer in Hackensack today.
HACKENSACK, NJ — Today, as New Jersey children head back to school, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will invest $1 billion in New Jersey to replace lead pipes and service lines, combat “forever chemicals” harming local water supplies, and improve water infrastructure. Gottheimer joined with local officials, educators, and students today to push for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to be passed and signed into law as soon as possible.
Today, at Hackensack High School — where the school has installed filtration systems to ensure the water is safe for children to consume — Gottheimer was joined by Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, Hackensack Public Schools Superintendent Robert Sanchez, Hackensack Councilman Leo Battaglia, Hackensack High School Principal Jim Montesano, Carol Feinstein, NJEA Uniserv Representative, Hackensack High School senior Curtis Whiting, educators, and students.
New Jersey has 350,000 lead service lines and pipes — contaminating drinking water and harming our families. Nationwide, there are up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lacking safe drinking water.
“This investment will directly make progress on the concerns that I regularly hear from parents — that the water they and their children are consuming may not be safe. We cannot afford to take these risks with our kids and students; the stakes are simply too high — we have to ensure these harmful substances are filtered out of our families’ water,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) today. “Here’s the big win to improve our water infrastructure here in the Garden State: New Jersey will expect to receive $1 billion over five years from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill — to improve water infrastructure across our state and to ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right for our kids and families.”
Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse said, “The health and safety of our families is of the utmost importance. The passage of this bill will guarantee us safe drinking water for generations to come. I want to thank Congressman Gottheimer on driving this bill forward and I urge the House to pass this bill.”
“It has been well established that lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health. This is especially true for children due to their developing brains and nervous system,” said Hackensack Public Schools Superintendent Robert Sanchez. “Studies have shown that even small amounts of lead exposure can increase the risk of developmental effects. This is why it is extremely important that the bipartisan infrastructure bill be passed now to decrease the risk of lead exposure for our school community and our youngest learners. The time for safe drinking water for all is now! We can no longer wait.”
Exposure to lead can have a severe impact on children, stunting development, causing learning disabilities, hearing loss, seizures, and irreversible harm to brain development, the nervous system, and vital organs.
Watch the press conference here.
Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer with Hackensack High School Senior Curtis Whiting.
Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer visits Hackensack law enforcement.
Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below
I’m here today because as our children head back to school this week, I’m continuing to sound the alarm on a major threat to the health and safety of our children and families: dangerously elevated levels of lead and other forever chemicals in our drinking water. And I’m here today to deliver great news. When the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes the House, and is signed into law, New Jersey will receive at least $1 billion for addressing critical water infrastructure.
We’ve made important progress in recent years — both to replace some of our communities’ lead pipes, greater transparency of lead testing in our schools, and upgrades to our water treatment plants. But now there’s even more hope on the horizon: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will make a once-in-a-century investment in repairing and improving our nation’s infrastructure, including an historic investment to provide safe drinking water for students here in North Jersey, and nationwide.
And the bipartisan infrastructure bill includes critical resources to help address climate disasters like the one that hit Jersey last week and took the lives of at least 27 people and caused historic damage and flooding.
But to get this done, and get the critical resources to fix our crumbling roads, bridges, transit, and rail, build the Gateway Tunnel, and invest in electric vehicles and broadband, we must move forward with a vote in the House.
Thanks to a clear public commitment from congressional leadership, including Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer and Whip Clyburn to get the votes — and in black and white print in a legislative rule that all Democrats voted for — Congress will be voting on that infrastructure bill by September 27th. And that bill, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly with the support of fifty Democrats in the Senate and 19 Republicans, will go to the President’s desk this month to be signed into law. In fact, just yesterday, the President talked about the importance of passing it out of the House. The bottom line: We simply can’t afford to wait any longer for this infrastructure bill.
Just look at what happened here in Hackensack and nearby communities. It’s heartbreaking.
So, we are on the brink of turning this infrastructure investment, including new water infrastructure, into a reality, which is good news because — unfortunately — here’s the issue at hand:
Currently, up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and childcare centers nationwide lack safe drinking water.
Right here in New Jersey, we have 350,000 lead service lines, according to the American Water Works Association. That’s a lead pipe that connects a water main to premises like a home or school — from the curb to the home. Any pipe leading to a home built before 1988 could have lead pipes.
On top of the lead, we also have to combat forever chemicals like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances —known as PFAS. These forever chemicals are from things like Teflon, food packaging, and stain repellents, that have been linked to numerous adverse health effects, including cancers and impaired child development. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill includes an historic investment to address these forever chemicals.
We cannot afford to take these risks with our kids and students; the stakes are simply too high — we have to ensure these harmful substances are filtered out of our families’ water.
This bipartisan bill will make that a reality. This is an issue I’ve been talking about since before I got elected. I stood in front of a water tower in Ridgewood with parents — and I’ve received countless calls from parents over the years.
Our parents are worried — our students and educators are worried. Just this week, one Bergen County North Jersey community received notices that their water includes above acceptable levels of PFOA acid — a contaminant.
We get phone calls from worried parents across North Jersey, asking us: how can we protect ourselves? How do I protect my child? What can you do to help? They’ve even told us a utility company sent them a Brita filter to help with a lead issue — which only lasts six months.
This is a major problem, because we know that exposure to lead can have a severe impact on our children, stunting development, causing learning disabilities, hearing loss, seizures, and irreversible harm to brain development, the nervous system, and vital organs.
Many of our schools are older — so, their pipes, sinks, and water fountains predate the transition to lead-free pipes.
For a 103-year-old school like Hackensack High, they’ve been lucky and made incredible strides to make needed improvements and to protect their 1,800 students from lead in their drinking water. Here, the water is now 100% safe to drink — thanks to new filters installed across the school grounds to correct deficiencies, in line with New Jersey state law.
This work has paid off: last year, Hackensack High School’s analytical lead-in-drinking water results confirmed that the school is delivering safe drinking water to the students and educators who learn and work in this building each day.
But now, they’d love the resources to be able to fully replace the original, lead-coated pipes as well, but that would involve significant construction. This bipartisan infrastructure bill will help schools like Hackensack do just that – or install similar water filtration systems like they have here at Hackensack.
Fully-safe drinking water here at Hackensack High is clearly a success story. But not all schools across New Jersey or nationwide may have solved this issue as effectively.
Also, the dangers of lead water don’t go away when kids head home from school — homes, businesses, and communities across New Jersey suffer from this issue because of aging infrastructure. I mentioned, any pipe leading to a home built before 1988 could have lead pipes.
To combat these issues here in the state, the Governor recently announced a plan for New Jersey to replace all of its lead water lines within a decade — including the service lines that make up the “last mile” to homes and businesses across North Jersey, including in more rural parts of Sussex and Warren Counties, that still aren’t on sewer and use septic tanks or well water. But to make that plan a reality, we need the federal investment in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
Overall, nationwide, our bipartisan infrastructure legislation will make a $55 billion investment in clean drinking water — which represents the largest investment in American history.
Passing this legislation will help us make the investment we need, and we’ll be clawing back that federal investment — our tax dollars — right here to New Jersey.
Here’s the big win to improve our water infrastructure here in the Garden State: New Jersey will expect to receive $1 billion over five years from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill — to improve water infrastructure across our state and to ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right for our kids and families. Investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will go toward the replacement of lead service lines (which connect water mains to a home or school), and investment will go toward emergencies involving lead in drinking water, assistance for small communities, like those in Sussex and Warren Counties, and of course, help for schools across the Fifth Congressional District.
This investment will directly make progress on the concerns that I regularly hear from parents — that the water they and their children are consuming may not be safe.
Passing this bipartisan bill and making the investment we need to deliver clean drinking water to every American and to eliminate the nation’s lead service lines… now, that is a bipartisan issue that can bring everyone together. That is how — Democrats and Republicans — can work together to solve a clear problem.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill builds on the progress we’ve already made in New Jersey to keep folks safe: after years of advocacy from me and my team, and with local elected officials and local groups here in the Fifth District, and local parents, there’s greater transparency into lead water in schools — with a centralized, State-managed database of lead testing results, and the State increasing required school lead testing from every six to every three years.
Also, during my time in office, a key piece of my bipartisan legislation — the Lead-Free Schools Act — was enacted into law, creating a targeted pilot program using existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide with lead in their water.
These protections here in Jersey, with the bipartisan legislation the House will be passing later this month — and its $1 billion investment to improve Jersey’s water infrastructure — will work hand-in-hand to protect North Jersey students and families.
Thank you again to Hackensack Public Schools, educators, and so many others who help keep our children safe.
Our Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will help ensure that, as ever, in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us and that our families and children will be safe and healthy.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.