- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - School districts that haven’t tested their drinking water for lead must do so within a year under new rules adopted by the state.

The regulations were passed by the state Board of Education on Wednesday.

Districts that test within a year will be eligible for reimbursement of testing expenses through the state. Those that have tested their water in the past five years or don’t use fountains for drinking water can seek one-year extensions but wouldn’t be reimbursed for tests already completed.

The regulations also call for districts to test their water used for drinking and cooking at least once every six years.

The districts also must disclose the results of all future tests publicly and alert parents if lead levels are found to be higher than what the federal government advises.

State Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe said in a memo to the board that potential exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water poses a serious threat to peoples’ health, particularly children’s health.

“The health, safety and welfare of the children in the state are of the utmost importance,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said lead can negatively affect a child’s intelligence, ability to focus and academic achievement, even at low exposure levels.

The new rules were ordered by Republican Gov. Chris Christie after elevated lead levels were found in the water at several districts, including 30 schools in Newark.

The director of the New Jersey Sierra Club environmental group, Jeff Tittel, told The Record newspaper the laws are a significant step in keeping kids safe. But he said the state should establish a long-term funding plan to continue monitoring and testing for lead.

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