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Newark, NJ Passes Out Bottled Water After Lead Levels Remain High

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NJ officials pointed out that long-term bottled water distribution could affect the city’s corrosion control treatment launched in May, since for the system to work properly residents must keep city water flowing through their pipes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

By: Jared Evan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a recommendation for the city of Newark in a letter last Friday to hand out bottled water to residents in the wake of recent surveys that showed the water in two of three tested homes still contained high lead levels despite the use of filters, while local officials instead called on the government to assist them with bottled water instead of beginning distribution as recommended,

In a joint statement issued last Sunday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy and Mayor Ras Baraka said safe drinking water was critically important and called on the federal government to help.

“As we carefully evaluate our options and the data available to us, it is important to understand that 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,” the statement said.

However, the EPA recommended that Newark begin distributing bottled water almost immediately and the city has the immediate responsibility.

“We believe it is the responsibility of the city of Newark to provide such bottled water as soon as possible,” the agency wrote in its Friday letter, adding that the EPA “is prepared to take appropriate action” to ensure protection of public health should the state and city not “promptly undertake these recommended actions.”

“EPA believes that, out of an abundance of caution, residents who have lead service lines should be advised to use bottled water for drinking and cooking until the results of the filter testing are fully understood, additional sampling is performed, and a reliable solution can be implemented,” the agency said in a statement late Saturday night, following the press conference with Newark mayor Baraka.

“The city is expanding tests of filtered drinking water to more Newark homes and “is actively working with the filter manufacturer to determine the scope of the situation and identify required corrective action as soon as possible,” the mayor and governor said

Baraka said it isn’t clear why the filters — which are nationally certified and used across the country — weren’t removing lead at expected levels. He urged residents to flush the water for five minutes before using the filters.

In November, Baraka rejected comparisons between Newark’s lead problem and the crisis in Flint, Michigan, Market Watch pointed out.

NJ officials also believe that by the years end reduction in lead levels was expected by year’s end due to the corrosion control system, with initial tests leaving officials optimistic that the system would eventually provide the protective coating necessary to prevent leaching from lead pipes, Market watch reported.

NJ officials pointed out that long-term bottled water distribution could affect the city’s corrosion control treatment launched in May, since for the system to work properly residents must keep city water flowing through their pipes.

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