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New Jersey Future (NJF) at the White House

February 6th, 2023 by

NJF Policy Manager Deandrah Cameron at the White House Summit on Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement.

On January 27, 2023, New Jersey Future’s very own Deandrah Cameron—policy manager and backbone staff for Lead-Free NJ and the Jersey Water Works’ Lead in Drinking Water task force—represented NJF and the state of New Jersey at the White House Summit on Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement, part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. Deandrah was one of many leaders in water policy invited to attend the event, which brought together experts from four states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Wisconsin) to learn about and collaborate to address the issue of lead in drinking water across 40 communities. The Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators program is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state partners across the four states represented at the summit. State partners include mayors and government officials, utilities, and water policy advocates, nonprofits, and funders, as well as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and equivalent departments from across the four states. New Jersey and NJF were invited in recognition of our leadership on lead issues. Over time, New Jersey, along with the three additional states, will serve as a model for other states grappling with the chronic issue of lead in the drinking water.

Vice President Harris speaking at the White House Summit on Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement.

“We got to hear from Vice President Harris, who dubbed herself a water policy nerd—we were all really excited to hear her go on and on about the topic we are so passionate about,” Deandrah shared, remarking on her experiences at the summit. Another speaker who particularly stood out was a woman named Deanna Branch, an advocate with the Milwaukee-based Coalition for Lead Emergency, whose nine-year-old son had experienced lead poisoning, which kicked off her work in organizing for clean drinking water. “As someone working in policy who is not always on the ground in communities, it was good to see and hear from someone who is impacted by lead and who is excited to see that we are taking this issue so seriously. Hearing Deanna speak was a major highlight from the summit,” remarked Deandrah, reporting back on the highlights of her trip to the White House.

Milwaukee-based Coalition for Lead Emergency advocate Deanna Branch speaking with her nine-year-old son by her side.

At the summit, the work being done in the state of New Jersey to address lead in drinking water was elevated as a model of what lead service line replacement can look like. “New Jersey is seen as a pioneer in the field of water quality, and it’s good to see our state considered as a leader,” Deandrah explained of NJ’s leadership role in the collaborative effort toward lead pipe replacement in the four states. During the summit, mayors served on panels alongside state representatives and utilities, including Director Kareem Adeem of Newark’s Department of Water and Sewer Utilities and NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. Deandrah recounted watching NJ representatives speak, stating that “Being from New Jersey, it was cool seeing Kareem Adeem from Newark—one of the people we work closely with on the JWW Lead in Drinking Water task force—and the commissioner of NJDEP talking about what the City of Newark is doing and offering support for other utilities and cities, all on a national platform.” 

From left to right: NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, NJF Policy Manager Deandrah Cameron, Mayor of East Newark Dina M. Grilo, and Newark Department of Water and Sewer Utilities Director Kareem Adeem.

In his remarks on a panel at the summit, Kareem Adeem offered sound advice based on his experiences in Newark in lead service line removal. “Communication, communication, communication. You may not always get it right, but that doesn’t mean you stop. You continue to communicate. You continue to, you know, acknowledge those times when you made a mistake, you should always acknowledge it, but you continue to move forward… Overall, the political collaboration with the local government, the county, and the state, [it made it so] we were able to [remove the lead service lines].” Of the work done by Adeem and many other leaders in the City of Newark, Vice President Harris remarked, “Other cities and other families and children around our country will benefit from the work you did right here.”

From left to right: Clean Water Action Campaigns Director Lynn Thorp, Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) Chief Strategy Officer & Director of Water Strategy Maureen Cunningham, and NJF Policy Manager Deandrah Cameron.

All in all, NJF appreciates the opportunity for Deandrah to represent NJF amongst water policy leaders from across the country. Deandrah shared some final reflections which illustrate the significance of the White House Summit personally, for our partners, and for the state of New Jersey. “In my role at NJF, I have the opportunity to hear from two great collaboratives: Jersey Water Works and Lead-Free New Jersey. I work with some of the smartest people in the state on lead issues, and to see their work elevated and validated in having New Jersey Future be selected as a partner for the White House Summit on Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement is incredible. One of the goals of our Get the Lead Out partnership is to convene all representatives quarterly. Currently, I meet with the experts in our collaborative monthly and we get in the weeds on lead, so to be able to elevate our mission across states and share our expertise is so powerful. I never imagined taking the work beyond the walls of NJ, so to get to work across four states and 40 communities shows that our work is transcending state lines. I used to have a goal of every city in New Jersey being like the City of Newark and having lead-free drinking water, but now I have a vision of all 40 cities in the partnership, and all cities in the US. My enthusiasm and vision and goals around water quality have expanded because we’re now working at a national level.”

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