Trenton Tackles the Lead Problem With Cost Aid

Four years ago, Trenton began replacing lead service lines. The city exceeded the safe standard of 15 parts per billion, and the state Department of Environmental Protection was issuing fines for missing deadlines to replace city lead service lines with copper.  

The city complained that it was understaffed to address water issues.  Funding has been delayed. The city still needs $150 million to locate and replace 37,000 lead water service lines. However, a $9 million state grant and a $15 million dollar loan will allow Trenton to get started. 

Replacing street access lines, generally the homeowner’s  responsibility, can cost up to $5,000 per home, but Trenton is making it happen for a flat cost of $1,000 per home. For those with limited incomes, the work can be done for free. 

Recently, the EPA met with parents after tests showed lead at contaminated grassy play areas at a Trenton school. Several pottery factories existed in the area in the 1900s, and these were a major contributor to the lead residue. Cleanup has been initiated.

Lead can alter behavior, affect learning, and cause seizures and death. Ten NJ towns are getting help from the Biden administration to speed up the removal process, although it is estimated it will take eight more years to fix the problem.

Blackwood, Camden, Clementon, East Newark, Harrison, Keansburg, Keyport, New Brunswick, Trenton, and Ventnor are estimated to have tens of thousands of lead service lines. Many more are of unknown composition. 

There is $15 billion available for problems like this in President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure act. New Jersey has received roughly $150 million in federal funding each of the last two years, but it’s not enough. Records from well over 100 years ago don’t completely show where all those lines are. The EPA Accelerator program is the doorway to the infrastructure fund, but to qualify, towns must provide reliable information on the number of lead lines in need of replacement.

Shereyl Snider, of the East Trenton Collaborative in the North Ward Community, believes “lead poisoning is 100% preventable.” She said combatting lead contamination starts with proper housing and protecting children from lead in the water and in older paint. Helpful programs are Lead-Free NJ and Get the Lead Out of Trenton