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In response to growing concern about the presence of lead in drinking water at schools, Governor Chris Christie has ordered mandatory testing for all New Jersey public schools.  The governor also announced on Monday that the state will adopt stricter guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will trigger an investigation sooner when lead is detected in a child’s blood.

Under the governor’s new regulations, all public schools will also need to post and notify parents of their lead testing results and provide them with a description of any steps the school is taking to ensure safe drinking water will be made available to students.  Under the plan, the state would provide $10 million to cover the cost of the testing in 3,000 facilities, and the results would be posted by the school districts.

Testing will begin before the next school year, with the Education Department working with the Environmental Protection and Health Departments to determine scientifically appropriate protocols for testing and responding to any elevated levels that are cause for concern.

In early April, Mr. Christie said he wanted to act cautiously before mandating testing statewide.  But on Monday, he said that it had become clear that the state needed to address the concern of parents who were hungry for information.  “This is not about reporting to the state; this is about reporting to the parents,” he said.  “I think it is the right thing to do because there is public concern about it.”

Christie’s announcements were met with praise and surprise.  “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Staci Berger, CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.  “This is a step forward for our families and our most vulnerable children.”

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