Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. that would allow school districts and nonpublic schools to receive reimbursements for costs incurred on or after January 1, 2016 for testing school drinking water for lead was signed into law on May 12, 2017.
“You can’t put a price on the health and safety of any child,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “We know that there is no safe level of lead for children, and any neurological damage caused is irreversible. Reimbursing the public and nonpublic schools that tested their drinking water is the right thing to do.”
Last year, the governor directed the NJ Department of Education to mandate all of New Jersey’s schools to test for lead in drinking water and asked the legislature to include an additional $10 million in funding to support the plan in the budget. The department’s requirements stated that school districts would only be eligible to receive a reimbursement for lead testing performed after July 13, 2016. This law, S-2675 (Diegnan), expanded eligibility to nonpublic schools and allows schools to receive a reimbursement for lead testing conducted on or after January 1, 2016, but before the department filed the program requirements.
“Highland Park residents have a great deal to be thankful for, including its excellent schools, and Senator Diegnan’s commitment to doing the right thing. This legislation reinforces the positive actions of our school board and district in protecting the health and well-being of our children,” said Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler. “Our school officials didn’t wait to be told about testing the water in our buildings. They acted. As a result of this legislation, our schools will be included in the reimbursement of funds for safe drinking water testing.”
“The Highland Park Board of Education acted swiftly to provide peace of mind to the district’s students and families when lead testing was conducted in all of our district’s schools. We were disheartened to learn that because we acted prior to the governor’s lead testing mandate the district would be ineligible for reimbursement,” said Darcie Cimarusti, Highland Park School Board president. “Senator Diegnan sponsored this common sense legislation to ensure that Highland Park’s taxpayers weren’t short-changed because the district and the board acted in a timely, efficient manner in the best interest of our students. We thank the senator for his unwavering commitment to Highland Park.”