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Urban News Staff Reports

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka annoyed at a press conference on Thursday that the latest testing results of lead levels in Newark’s water show a significant drop below federal exceedance levels. 
The press conference was held across from St. Michael’s Hospital where Baraka said several city agencies and experts work together to reach the milestone.

“This is the result of outstanding work of the Administration, scientists and other experts in our Water & Sewer Department, our engineering firm CDM Smith and all of our county, state and federal government partners,” Baraka said. “Mostly, it is a day to thank Newark residents for their patience and cooperation as we work diligently to deliver them the purest water possible. Almost 13,000 of our 18,720 lead lines have been replaced and we won’t stop until lead is eradicated from our water system.”

Last May, the City began introducing orthophosphate into the water system to control corrosion of lead service lines, which connect older, small buildings and homes to the City’s water mains. Large apartment houses, office buildings and institutions were not impacted, nor were buildings constructed after 1953, the year the City banned the use of lead in service lines.

“Aging infrastructure and lead exposure in drinking water has plagued communities throughout the state and across the nation for decades,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey must continue to move forward to remediate this issue and work collaboratively across all levels of government to remove the dangers of lead from our communities. I applaud Mayor Baraka and the City of Newark for their commitment to replacing thousands of lead service lines to ensure safe drinking water and modern infrastructure for their residents.”

Last December, water samples showed a 74 percent drop in lead levels to an average of 17.3 ppb after seven months of the new corrosion control.

Director Adeem said the new results were attainable because the community cooperated with the City by using water to help coat the lead pipes, allowing workers quick access to their homes for lead line replacement and showing “patience” through the process.

“It’s always important when we see progress to thank the residents,” Director Adeem said. “They have been patient, cooperative and worked with us to solve this situation as a community.”

In the spring of 2016, Newark began to experience elevated lead levels in several schools, as one in eight samples showed exceedances above 15 ppb. Bottled water was brought in for drinking, and wider sampling showed only five percent of the exceedances were from drinking sources.

City and state officials began investigating the cause and, in the spring of 2017, exceedances were noted in 10 of 100 samples taken from private homes. As with the schools, residents were notified of their exceedances through their water bills, City mailers and town hall meetings, and testing continued. The next several cycles of testing, and a lead-line biopsy by the EPA, showed the corrosion system from the Pequannock treatment plant, which serves less than half the City, had faltered.

Within days of that finding, the City began distributing 40,000 filters, which eventually proved 99 percent effective in reducing lead levels when flushed properly. The City continues to offer cartridge replacements for free and instructions on how to install and properly maintain the filters. 

“That was our short-term fix,” Mayor Baraka said. “But we knew the only permanent solution was replacing all 18,720 plus lead lines in the City.”

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