Officials in New Jersey’s largest city continue to hand out bottled water to thousands or residents after limited testing found elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

During a news conference at a bottled water distribution center in Newark, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe said she will head to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to meet with federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to discuss the situation and construct a plan for additional water testing.

She noted to get a true understanding of what’s going on in Newark, there are complex issues about how water is tested “to get a scientifically representative picture of whether there’s a widespread problem.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said residents in only one section of the city are being advised to drink bottled water after two of three homes tested at the end of last week had higher than recommended levels of lead in taps that had been outfitted with Pur water filters that were recommended by the EPA. These were the same filters being used in Flint, Michigan.

McCabe said the water filters given to homeowners removed a significant amount of lead, but not enough to consider the water safe to drink.

Murphy stressed the state will continue to work closely with Newark officials to solve the problem. He noted Newark has been struggling with elevated lead levels in service lines for years, which is why almost 40,000 filters were handed out over the past year.

“Clean water is a right, not a privilege, particularly for pregnant, nursing women, and for kids 6 and under. That’s our main focus," Murphy said.

The city of Newark began handing out bottled water to residents on Monday, but those efforts were halted briefly when it was discovered the plastic water bottles being distributed had “best used by May 2019 ” stamped on them. The water continues to be safe.

Murphy said Anheuser Busch and Pepsi will donate additional supplies as needed for the time being, but at some point the federal government may have to “step up” and provide additional supplies if necessary.

“We are acting in, to use an overused phrase, an abundance of caution to make sure we’re getting out ahead of this, and not be dragged by it," Murphy said.

So far this year the state of New Jersey has provided $1.8 million in lead testing funding and $12 million to support Newark’s efforts to replace lead service line pipes.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com