State assemblyman criticizes Murphy’s plan to remove lead water pipes

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A Democratic state assemblyman is criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to remove lead water service pipes around the state.

Union County Assemblyman Jamel Holley says that Murphy has been “asleep at the switch” on the issue of lead contamination in New Jersey.

“I’m choosing people over politics,” Holley says. “I like the governor. I think he’s a great man. But we’re just not on the same page on this issue.”

Holley says that he thinks that the governor’s $500,000 plan is more of a reaction than anything else.

“What we need is a comprehensive Marshall environmental plan instead of a reaction,” he says.

Gov. Murphy revealed his administration's lead strategy last Thursday. Working off a report by New Jersey Water Works task force, the governor says he plans to replace every lead service line in the state by 2029, remove lead paint and remediate lead-contaminated soil.

RELATED: Newark halts free bottled water program; gives out filters instead 
RELATED: Gov. Murphy seeks $500M bond to replace lead paint, pipes 

Holley, in August, asked for a state of emergency to be called to deliver bottled water in Newark. He says that he spoke to the governor by phone on Aug. 20.

“The conversation quite frankly wasn't very respectful. In fact, the governor hung up the phone on me and we haven't talked since but I have been communicating with his administration,” Holley says.

FULL COVERAGE: Lead-contaminated water crisis

A spokesperson for the Murphy administration says in a statement, "Assemblyman Holley should focus on passing legislation to solve this issue instead of engaging in political theatrics from the backbench. His recent attacks on the Governor and Mayor are just pathetic attempts to make himself relevant."

The governor's office also defended administration efforts and the work of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to replace over 1,000 service lines to date.

Holley says that he agrees with Newark state Sen. Ron Rice, another Democrat, who recently wrote a letter accusing the governor of patronizing African American leaders.

“There's several other issues that we are confronted with, in particular in urban communities, in regard to social justice none of which have been resolved,” Holley says. “Water is a liberty, it is a right, but we have to get it right. And we are not getting it right here in the state of New Jersey."

Holley says he's worked with the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center to collect more than 60,000 donated cases of water for places like Newark and Flint, Michigan.

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