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Newark seeks $70M to replace lead service lines, fix water contamination

NEWARK – Newark is currently awaiting approval for a $70,000,000 project to replace all of the city’s lead service lines as well as change the chemical used to prevent corrosion. In the meantime, the city has given out water filters to residents and are conducting blood tests.

Mayor Ras Baraka was joined by Kareem Adeem the Assistant Director of the Department of Water and Sewer and Dr. Mark Wade from the Department of Community Health and Wellness on Thursday.
The water from the led pipes flows to thousands of homes, posing a health risk for residents.

Between 15,000 and 18,000 thousand homes in Newark have lead service lines; recently the chemical used to stop corrosion in those lines has not been effective, causing lead to leak into the water supply and out of the sinks in those homes.

Despite this percentage of Newark homes being affected, Ras Baraka said Newark’s source water is fine, and there is no need to panic.

“It’s misleading to tell people that the water is contaminated because it puts people in panic and fear and at the end of the day your source water is fine, if you have a lead service line, then there is a problem and this is something that we’ve been saying for years.”

“Testing is very simple, it starts with a finger stick, from that drop of blood we get an immediate result, if the sample if higher than 5, we test from the vein and send it to the lab if that level concurs greater than 5 we assign a public health nurse to that family and a lead tester to their home,” Department of Community Health and Wellness member Dr. Mark Wade said.

Ras Baraka, whose own home is affected, said there is no comparison to what happened in Flint Michigan and what is going on here in Newark.

“Flint purposefully did not put the corrosion control inhibitor in their water ours stopped working, that is a market and clear difference, they had boil water advisories, we’ve never had that, the EPA found they were not in compliance, we’ve always been in compliance with the state and federal guidelines,” Ras Baraka said.

If any affected resident did not receive a water filter, they can be picked up at 110 William Street Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The city is also conducting free blood tests during those times at that location.