To ensure safe drinking water at Jersey City public schools, Mayor Steven Fulop and the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority will begin Phase II of the drinking water remediation project.
Throughout the first two phases of the project, the city is investing more than $3 million to reconstruct the school district’s drinking water infrastructure, according to the city.
The lead remediation action plan targets some of the district’s oldest school buildings to eliminate the potential for lead seepage in the drinking water through a partnership among the city, JCPS, and the JCMUA.
JCPS officials identified the schools in most immediate need.
“Despite the state’s draconian cuts to our school’s budget, we needed to move forward to fix the drinking water infrastructure which is why we stepped in on the city level to follow through and make this valued investment as the health and safety of our students and school staff is paramount,” Fulop said. “Our parents, teachers, staff, and students have enough to worry about, especially amid the pandemic; whether or not their drinking water is safe should not interfere with their school day and their education.”
The district is currently planning to have students return to school in a hybrid capacity in February.
Under Phase 1 of the project, the JCMUA retrofitted four of the city’s largest school buildings in Ward F with clean water systems, including extending new copper lines from the street directly to the buildings.
These schools include Ferris High School at 35 Colgate St., the Ferris Annex building at CC Dr., PS #41 at 59 Wilkinson Ave., and PS 15 at 135 Stegman St.
The second phase, totaling approximately $1.6 million, will replace the water supply lines at four additional school buildings in other areas of the city.
Phase II will include PS #38 at 339 Stegman Pkwy. in Ward A, PS #39 at 214 Plainfield Ave. in Ward B, PS #25 at 3385 JFK Blvd. in Ward D, and PS #4 at 107 Bright St. in Ward E.
As part of this second phase, every water cooler in each building will be replaced with ADA compliant water fountains that are touch-free and have bottle-filling capacities.
According to the city, new water fountains will also be added within each building where they never previously existed.
“We are completely reconstructing each school’s drinking water infrastructure, which includes brand new water fountains equipped with touch-free bottle filling capabilities and direct lead-free supply lines,” said JCMUA Director Joe Cunha. “We’ve been working closely with school officials to determine which schools are to be outfitted and the order of completion.”
“We are working through all the JCPS buildings in smaller manageable groups in a systematic and strategic sequence,” said Superintendent of the Jersey City Public School District Franklin Walker. “At each school, the hallway drinking water fountains and other locations – such as gymnasiums – are being targeted for immediate replacement. This work is being done as a supplement to the New Jersey Department of Education rules regarding lead drinking water compliance.”
This week, officials from the JCMUA and JCPS will hold a kickoff meeting for Phase II and will conduct site visits to assess each school building.
The district is performing post-remediation testing to verify the work results.
According to Cunha, the second phase will take about 10 months to complete.
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