Amid lead in water, filters failed to work in Newark, state says
Newark residents dealing with lead in their tap water and malfunctioning filters are being offered bottled water, as laid out in a joint statement Sunday by Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
"Recent testing by the City of Newark of water samples taken from three Newark homes, using City-issued water filters, found elevated lead levels in filtered water in two of the homes. In coordination with the City of Newark, Mayor Baraka and I are prepared to do everything the City needs, including making bottled water available to local residents," Murphy said in a written release.
They called access to safe drinking water "critically important."
Since 2017, the city has found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes and buildings.
In a press conference Saturday, Facebook live-streamed by ABC-7 Eyewitness News, Baraka said nearly 40,000 filters are in use now across the city.
During the press conference, Baraka said wasn't immediately clear why the filters weren't functioning properly in some Newark households.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and city officials said they are actively working with the filter manufacturer to determine the scope of the situation and identify required corrective action as soon as possible.
On Friday, Aug. 9, federal officials with the EPA sent a letter to Newark and the DEP, asking them to detail an action plan and recommending an advisory for impacted residents to use bottled water for drinking and cooking.
Families in the Pequannock service area with lead services lines who have received filters can pick up water at the following locations:
-Newark Department of Health and Wellness, 110 William Street
-Bo Porter Sports Complex, 378 Lyons Avenue
-Boylan Street Recreation Center, 916 South Orange Avenue
-Vince Lombardi Center, 201 Bloomfield Avenue
Newark is made up of two water service areas, the Pequannock and the Wanaque.
Murphy and Baraka said in the joint statement, "the City and State will need support and assistance from the federal government if bottled water is to be provided and distributed to impacted residents."
They also cautioned that long-term distribution of bottled water potential could impact the city’s new corrosion control treatment that was launched in May.
"Residents must continue to keep city water flowing through their pipes because this is necessary to move the orthophosphate through the system and form a protective coating around the inner lining of the pipes," according to the written release, which also said experts expect to see a reduction of lead levels "by the end of this year after the corrosion control optimizes."
The neighboring township of Bloomfield also announced Sunday that it would immediately begin a comprehensive test of its own filters.
Mayor Michael Venezia said the township also would make filter testing available to any of the 3,000 residents who have received them. Residents can sign up for testing by calling 973-680-4009.
“While lead levels in Bloomfield have never tested nearly as high as those in Newark, we still took the proactive step of distributing water filters to thousands of residents and it is very disturbing to learn that some of those filters may not be working as intended,” Mayor Venezia said.
In the past year, Bloomfield has replaced water service lines at 30 homes that were known to have tested positive for lead previously and recently received a $1.1 million state loan to replace many more.
The township also has begun a comprehensive water main cleaning project throughout town to remove sediment from water main lines.
Bloomfield is hosting a public forum on the lead issue on Monday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Civic Center at 84 Broad St.
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