Newark Water Crisis

Newark, Lead, water, Haloacetic Acid, Ras Baraka, NRDC, lawsuits, Flint, Michigan, lead in water


By Walter Elliott

NEWARK - How various stakeholders view the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest report on the Newark Water and Sewer Utilities lead content may be likened to how one views a half-glass of water.

The EPA report, which covers monitoring of and recording from 356 sites along Newark's water distribution system Jan. 1-June 30, showed levels of up to 52 parts per billion gallons.

That sampling includes customers served by NWS's Pequannock and Wanaque distribution mains among the city's five wards. The 270,000 city residents make up the bulk of Newark's 390,000 customers; the rest including clients in Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley and, to a limited extent, South Orange and East Orange.

The federal agency has long set an "actionable" standard of 15 parts of lead per billion gallons for drinking water suppliers to take corrective measures. The EPA has not set a "safe" standard for lead in the water. Advocacy groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council have been calling on it to lower the actionable level to 5 ppb.

Lead - whether ingested in water, in water or in paint chips - makes its way into the bloodstream. Lead in the blood can affect the brain's learning functions, particularly of children.

The 52 ppb recording compares to the 48 ppb reading made from 246 sampling sites July 1-Dec. 31, 2018 and 18 ppb recorded Jan. 1-June 30, 2018. The sampling and monitoring have been conducted by NWS-hired CDM Smith of Edison.

Groups like the NRDC, Sierra Club-New Jersey Chapter and the Newark Water Coalition views the latest findings as part of the glass being half-empty. They place the latest findings in context of Newark registering above 15 ppb the last five semiannual testing periods.

"The latest tests of Newark's water raises a big alarm bell showing larger amounts of lead than ever before," said N.J. Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel July 9. "Our concern is that this will get worse before it gets better; warmer weather and more rain will bring more pollution in the water and that causes more lead to leach from the pipes. The Poland Spring and Brita filter solution can't work - we need a long-term fix and the money to do it."

Tittel's Brita filter remark is in reference to the city's free distribution of PUR faucet filters and pitchers to residents. Acting NWS Director Kareem Adeem, on July 8, said that 38,000 of the 40,000 units it bought from PUR has been distributed since October. That distribution was done either by residents picking up the devices from designated city offices or by NWS employees spending 27,000 hours going door-to-door.

Bloomfield, Belleville and Nutley have also since launched free faucet water filter distribution campaigns for its NWS-served residents.

That distribution was done among those NWS customers served by its Wanaque system or roughly the city's eastern half. Lead had been later detected in the Pequannock system distribution lines, mainly due to the failing effectiveness of sodium silicate added at the Pequannock Reservoir.

Newark, last spring, constructed a Pequannock treatment facility that has since induced orthophosphate as its new anti-corrosion additive since May 7. The city also began a 10-year, $75 million Lead Service Line Replacement Program with some 15,000 mostly residential customers.

The city was first alerted to above-actionable lead in water levels by way of the Newark Public School District in March 2016.

NPS discovered 15 ppb-plus readings from pipes, fittings and faucets in a majority of its 70 schools and support buildings. Aging school infrastructure and seasonal/sporadic use of some faucets were blamed for the high readings. Most of that infrastructure has been long since replaced.

NPS' flushing and replacement campaign presaged the city's above-actionable readings skid since Jan 1., 2017.

Adeem and Mayor Ras Baraka have been leading a choir who sees the EPA's July 7 report as the glass being half-full. The City of Newark's July 8 press release started with a headline calling the lead levels "slight increases."

"When we announced new upgrades to the Pequannock's corrosion control system in May, we wanted residents to understand that reported lead levels could rise in the short term - but that ultimately our engineers at CDM Smith expect them to drop in the months ahead," said Adeem. "That’s because that it takes time for the orthophosphate to optimize and recoat the inner lining of Lead Service Lines to reduce corrosion."

Attorneys from the city, NRDC and co-plaintiff Newark Education Workers' Caucus have been meanwhile meeting with former U.S. Chief Judge Jose L. Linares here in a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Court House and Justice Complex since July 9.

U.S. Judge Esther Salas had ordered all parties in NRDC, NEW Caucus v. City of Newark and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection that Monday to enter mediation. Salas then named Linares, who headed the New Jersey District's judges, as mediator.

NRDC and NEW Caucus had sued Newark and the DEP commissioner, claiming that city and state officials had violated the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule - therefore allowing lead levels to rise. The plaintiffs had sought an injunction to have all residents, not just Wanaque system customers, receive filters - and all residents receive bottled water.

The Newark Water Coalition has invited Flint, Mich. pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha to speak at St. Stephen's Church, 7 Wilson Ave., 6:30-8:30 p.m. July 17. Hanna-Attisha is to recount her part in turning Flint's lead-in-water crisis around.


By Walter Elliott

NEWARK - The Newark Water Supply has been receiving mixed news so far this month in its efforts to improve water quality.

NWS, as part of Newark's Department of Water and Sewer Utilities, is anticipating good news in form of a consultant's report on lead content levels among its East Ward customers. A draft of that report became public here Feb. 1.

Nutley Township, on Feb. 12, however, became the third of NWS's customer towns to find elevated haloacetic acid readings in its latest round of tests.

Newark is entering its third year of trying to lower what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls "actionable levels" on lead and haloacetic acids.

NWS's respective Pequannock and Wanaque systems serve some 300,000 customers - both New Jersey's largest city plus 12 municipal customers. Those customers using eight million gallons daily include Nutley, Belleville, Bloomfield and, to a lesser degree, South Orange and the East Orange Water Commission in the "Local Talk" territory.

Nutley, on Lincoln's Birthday, released the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's latest water quality test results. The DEP, testing on behalf of the township, found eight places along Newark-fed mains in Nutley that were above the EPA's actionable levels for haloacetic acids.

A municipality and water supplier, by law, has to notify its customers whenever the haloacetic acid content exceeds 60 parts per billion. That notice warns pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems of an increased risk of cancer may develop after consuming water with such a high level for "many years."

Haloacetic acids are formed when biological matter, like algae and fallen leaves, mix with disinfectants used to eliminate bacteria.

Nutley's readings sound familiar to its neighbors in Bloomfield and Belleville. Both townships, after registering more than 60ppb the last few months, resorted to dispensing free household faucet filters to partially combat the problem.

Bloomfield has invested $10 million last year to install an interconnection and transfer pump under West Passaic Avenue. The pump and interconnection will allow that township the flexibility to switch from Newark to the North Jersey Water District Commission system.

Nutley Mayor/Public Works Commissioner Joseph Scarpelli, Jr. said that the readings affect 500 homes in the western part of town; the rest of Nutley's 7,500 homes are served by the Passaic Valley Water Commission.

Scarpelli has directed DPW workers to flush that area's fire hydrants daily to dilute the acid.

"Flushing isn't the cure-all," said Scarpelli, "because the problem is in the water itself. It's a problem that needs to be rectified."

"It (the readings) suggest that something’s going on in the source water," added Environmental Working Group advising scientist Olga Naidenko. The EWG is a Washington, D.C.-based ecology advocacy group.

Mayor Ras Baraka, among other Newark officials, said that they too are flushing water mains while building a new Pequannock water treatment plant. That plant is to go on-line between April and July.

Newark is also aggressively combating lead buildup with a $75 million, 10-year lead service line replacement program launched last fall. It has also been supplying free water filters or pitchers to some 20,000 customers served by its Pequannock system since last year.

The Pequannock and Wanaque's comparison and contrast came into focus again with a Feb. 1 draft report by its testing consultant, CDM Smith, of Edison, to U.S. District Judge Esther Salas. Salas is presiding on a case between the city and the Natural Resources Defense Council over how Newark has been handling its lead content crisis.

The 48-page preliminary report is based on CDM Smith's sampling of water in lead service lines between Newark's mains and the homes of customers in the East Ward. The East Ward is mainly served by NWS's Wanaque Treatment Plant with the rest served by Pequannock.

The draft's findings concluded that "water quality in the Wanaque Gradient doesn't appear to be affected enough to increase lead levels in (that) gradient enough to levels seen in the Pequannock Gradient or to levels triggering a lead (actionable level) exceedance."

That Wanaque's treatment plant uses orthophosphate, which prevents lead leaching into pipes and fixtures, is seen as a key difference in the East Ward's lead readings. Officials have been working to replace sodium silicate, put into the Pequannock system - which the EPA told Newark, in 2017, has become ineffective.

NDRC was suing the city in part to have free water filters distributed in the East Ward. The group was citing intermixing of Pequannock and Wanaque water at key interconnections and during emergencies for the filter expansion.

NWS, like all other systems, have to send customer notices whenever lead content readings exceeds the EPA's 15 ppb actionable threshold. 


Newark, Lead, water, Haloacetic Acid, Ras Baraka, NRDC, lawsuits, Flint, Michigan, lead in water


By Walter Elliott

NEWARK - So much for one Newark Water Supply reservoir system having a lead contamination problem over the other.

Attorneys representing the city at a Nov. 28 hearing here at U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor presented documents that revealed that water from both the Pequannock and Wanaque reservoirs have been blended along the delivery system. The combined systems serve Newark's 270,000 residents plus customers in Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley and, to a limited extent, East Orange in "Local Talk" territory.

City attorneys, among other records, presented a five page letter, dated Nov. 8, from the late Newark Water and Sewer Utilities Director Andrea Hall Adebowale to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Water System Engineering Supervisor Joseph J. Mattie.

"It's likely that a blending zone exists at the interface between the Wanaque and Pequannock service area," wrote Adebowale to Mattie. "The blending's likely a result of occasional opening of pressure regulating valves to allow the higher gradient water to supply Wanaque during emergency events such as water main breaks and fires. It's also possible that a gate was open at the time of sampling."

This "possible blending" was detected after the city reviewed its test results "from the present going back to July 2016." It was so determined after comparing "silica, orthophosphate and alkalinity values of the two water systems."

Adebowale and Mayor Ras Baraka, since Oct. 15, had cited lead leaching into its Pequannock-fed system for the water filter and pitcher distribution and lead service line replacement programs launched that day.

Those initiatives were made after two thirds of the latest round of city-wide water samples came back above the federal Environmental Protection Agency's "actionable" level of 15 parts per billion of lead per liter. Tester CDM Smith, of Edison, found most of the 18,000 LSLs tested were above the 15 ppb lead level.

"Newark has some of the best drinking water," said Baraka at an Oct. 12 City Hall press announcement with Adebowale and Health Director Dr. Mark Wade. "The problem is that our infrastructure isn't safe. The corrosion control being used hasn't been effective in various parts of the North Ward, parts of the South Ward, the West Ward and the Central Ward; the East Ward has been unaffected."

The EPA notified Newark last year that adding sodium silicate at Pequannock's treatment plant so it could line lead pipes since 1997 has become ineffective. Corrosion and lead buildup have ensued while Newark sought an alternative plan or method.

The Pequannock system, by itself, serves the West and Central wards plus parts of the North and South wards. The Wanaque system feeds the remainder.

"If evaluated separately from the Pequannock service area," said Adebowale, "the Wanaque Gradient would've been in (lead) compliance from 2002 to the first half of 2018, with 90th percentile values from 0.0 to 11.2 (ppb/L)."

Adebowale added, however, that state and federal testers have evaluated both water systems together. The Nov. 8 letter was part of Newark's correspondence to the DEP on corrosion control treatment.

Adebowale's letter to Mattie was most likely her last, having died Nov. 8.

Baraka promoted Deputy Director Kareem Adeem as Acting Director Nov. 28. "Local Talk" has seen Adeem, prior to his promotion, fielding questions in public meetings across Newark.

The letter, however, contradicts the Oct. 12 statement that the East Ward and parts of the North and South Wards - all served by Wanaque - need not worry about the actionable lead content in their water. Getting water filters or pitchers from the city and/or having their LSLs and internal plumbing were options and not a requirement.

"The conclusions that we have are saying that the Wanaque system isn't as affected as the Pequannock," said Baraka in a later interview. "The areas we're not sure about, we're telling them to continue business as usual. If you feel like you want to get tested, get tested. In the meantime, we're going to continue our overall study to make sure what we're saying is 100 percent accurate."

The Natural Resources Defense Council, in the wake of the Wanaque-Pequannock blending, may now be saying, "I told you so." The public interest group, who took Newark to court in June over water quality issues, had asked about elevated water readings from several East Ward testing sites.

"To hand wave and say there's no problem when there're numbers above the federal threshold," said NRDC spokesman Erik Olson Nov. 30, "and when they haven't taken a recent hard look at how the corrosion control's working, is inappropriate and deeply concerning."

The above letter was part of evidence for Judge Waldor to consider Nov. 28 in the Newark Education Workers Caucus v. City of Newark and NJDEP matter.

NEWCaucus took the city and DEP to court June 28, declaring that Newark had violated the EPA's Safe Water Drinking Act and its Lead and Copper Rule. Acting DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe sought a protective order against the suit, saying that she was not compelled to provide expert testimony or a list of privileged documents.

Waldor, in her Nov. 30 written ruling, said that McCabe's providing a document log would not be "burdensome" to the agency and that the commissioner had filed to show good cause for the restraining order, "because she failed to even discuss the standard for obtaining one."

The judge therefore denied McCabe's restraining order motion and directed her to set a documentary discovery schedule with NEWCaucus.

Community monitor Donna Jackson has meanwhile noticed related signs placed by two of the newer restaurants off Newark's Broad and Market streets' Four Corners Dec. 3.

The notices at Mercato Tomato Pie and Novelty Burger & Bar, as posted by Jackson on her Facebook page, read: "All of the water used in this restaurant is filtered with an industrial grade filter to eliminate contaminates, including lead."

The adjacent Mercato and Novelty restaurants are on the 210 block of Market Street and are in the East Ward.


By Walter Elliott

NEWARK  - City officials who are stewards of the city's water supply are now  working to get rid of two contaminating substances on two fronts since  Nov. 1.

Executives and technicians of Newark Water and Sewer Utilities are most  likely at the Wanaque and Pequannock reservoirs' treatment and filtering  facilities, while you are reading this, adjusting the chlorination  levels. Disinfecting and flushing the system are included.

They are making the changes to combat haloacetic acids, also known as  HAA5, which a recent round of state test samples found substantially  higher than the allowed maximum. The effort is in response to the New  Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Safe Drinking  Water issuing a notice of violation Nov. 1 to the state's largest city.

Eliminating HAA5 will improve the water quality of up to 500,000 of  Newark water supply's customers, including the city's own 270,000  residents plus customers in the eight towns it serves. Those customer  towns include Belleville, Bloomfield, Nutley and, to a lesser extent,  East Orange and South Orange.

This campaign would potentially affect more people that the current Lead  Service Line remediation project the utilities have been undertaking  since Oct. 12.

The city, on one hand, has been giving out some 40,000 tap water faucet  or water pitcher filters as an immediate response in its LSL replacement  campaign.

The water and sewer utilities, with the assistance of Mayor Ras Baraka's  administration and Municipal Council approval, is gearing up for a $60  million, eight-year effort to remove leaded or lead-contaminated water  lines between the city's water mains and property owners' plumbing  infrastructure.

An LSL replacement effort, on the other hand, is to affect some 30,000  people living in 18,406 addresses in the Central and West wards plus  parts of the North and South wards.

The NJDEP bureau based its Nov. 1 violation notice based on the HAA5  readings it had made among 12 sampling sites among all five wards Oct.  3.

The state bureau is following a federal Environmental Protection Agency  HAA5 maximum contaminant level of 60 parts per billion per liter.

Its Oct. 3 sampling, however, found nine of the 12 sampling sites exceeding that MCL:

- University Hospital, 16 Bergen St., in the Central Ward scored 81 ppb/L.
- The Senior House at 801 N. Sixth St., in the North Ward, registered 77 ppb/L.
- The John F. Kennedy School, 311 So. 10th St., West Ward, scored 76 ppb/L.
- 115 Clifton Ave., Central Ward, came in at 74 ppb/L.
- Essex County Parks Department Building, 115 Clifton Ave., Central Ward, tied at 74 pppb/L
- World of Liquor, Ivy Hill Plaza, 521 Irvington Ave., West Ward, also made 74 ppb/L
- RWJ Beth Israel Medical Center, 201 Lyons Ave., South Ward, drew 73 ppb/L
- Senior Citizens House, 545 Orange St., West Ward, had a 70 ppb/L reading
- Newark Health Department, 84 William St., Central Ward, had 62 ppb/L
(The LSL campaign, by contrast, has a 15 ppb/L "actionable" threshold for lead.)

HAA5 is a group of five possibly carcinogenic chemicals that are a byproduct of the water disinfection and chlorination process.

Newark Deputy Director of Water and Sewer Utilities Kareem Adeem, in a  Nov. 2 published report said that Oct. 3's elevated HAA5 levels is  attributed to "recent increases in organic material in source water and  demands for higher chlorine dosages."

Adeem's statement meshes with Barack's statement at the recent "Men's  Town Hall Meetings" on LSL that both Pequannock and Wanaque reservoirs  are “open water sources.”

Open sources, as opposed to wells and aquifers, are more prone to external contaminants.

Adeem, who has usually accompanied the mayor on the town hall circuit,  added that federal and state officials do not consider the elevated MCLs  as constituting an "acute public health emergency."

Erik D. Olsen, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, countered that  Newark has had to add more chlorine into the water to combat bacteria,  like leaves falling onto the reservoirs. More chlorination, reasons the  HRDC senior director, creates more HAA5.

"The answer is for the city to get its act together," concluded Olsen.

The NRDC had sued Newark and the DEP in State Superior Court-Newark over  the lead content in older pipes and fixtures. Adeem, in one town hall  meeting, said that the city and EPA had banned all use of lead piping  and fixtures since 1986.

The NRDC, among other demands, is calling on superior court judges to  have Newark distribute 10 cases of bottled water while replacing LSLs.

The City of Newark-NRDC legal confrontation has turned into a Newark-Flint, Mich. comparison and contrast in the media.

"Newark is not Flint," declared Baraka. "As in most cities, Newark's  water is delivered in obsolete infrastructure - lead service lines which  we don't own. Newark, like most cities with LSLs, must treat its waters  so that the water prevents lead from corroding the pipes."

The EPA and DEP told Newark earlier this year that its adding sodium  silicate as an anticorrosion liner, after 20 years, has lost its  effectiveness.

Baraka's "not Flint" points include, "Public officials in Flint chose to  switch to a different water source, to rely on a water treatment plant  with known deficiencies and to discontinue corrosion control treatment."

Michigan state officials, indeed, switched Flint's water source as a cost-savings measure.

The mayor stressed that Newark is going above and beyond necessary with  its LSL replacement program and filter distribution. "The city is  complying with the law," he concluded.

"Newark has echoes of Flint," countered Olsen, on WNYC's "Brain Leher  Show" Nov. 1. "You've got a situation where the city wasn't straight  with people. When the water gets to peoples' taps, because the city's  not properly treating it, lead leaches - just like in Flint."

Newark water supply's customers are meanwhile taking their own stock and are considering their own action.

Bloomfield, said Township Administrator Brain Watkins, has been traditionally buying pre-treated water from Newark.

He, Mayor Michael Venezia and the Township Council received a report on  elevated HAA5 levels Aug. 15. All four samples came in at 72, 81, 83 and  87 ppb/L. The township is also in the midst of their own lead line  replacement project.

"This mayor, this council, me and the engineers are very, very  concerned," said Watkins Nov. 2. "We'd like to think that Newark's  taking responsible action to correct the problem."

Watkins added that the township, as part of a $10 million infrastructure  improvement program, is building a water pump station at the Getty  gasoline station site on 227 East Passaic Ave. The pumping station, he  said, will interconnect and draw from the North Jersey District Water  Supply Commission's Wanaque main.

East Orange and South Orange said that they have limited their Newark water supply use since 2016.

The East Orange Water Commission spokeswoman said that its system only interconnects with Newark's supply as an emergency.

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, on Nov. 1, said that her  municipality has not used its Newark interconnection since 2016. The  village has interconnected with New Jersey American Water's  Livingston-East Hanover reservoir supply Jan. 1 after letting its  service contract with the EOWC lapse.

Belleville, according to the DEP's Drinking Water Watch web page, has  also exceeded 60 ppb/L seven times between Nov. 12, 2009 and Sept. 12.  Essex Watch, on Nov. 5, asked why township officials are so far silent  on the issue. 


By Walter Elliott

NEWARK  - "Water, water everywhere - but not a drop to drink," may well apply  to some 40,000 Newark residents who learned that their water service  lines feeding their 18,406 addresses since Oct. 11 have tested for  higher than "actionable" lead content.

City  officials, since Oct. 12, have been making available 40,000 free  household faucet filters to affected residents from eight locations: the  city's five recreation centers, City Hall, the Health Department and  the Water and Sewers Facility.

Qualified  recipients get a PUR household system with a MAXION filter, fitting  washers and an instruction manual. Recipients also receive two sheets of  paper, the first being a double-sided explanation of what prompted the  city to take this measure.

The  other sheet is a "Lead Service Line Replacement Form" for a landlord or  home property owner to fill out. That form, to be returned to Newark's  Water and Sewers Utilities, may qualify the said owner for lead service  line replacement by the city - with a catch.

The  catch is that owners who want the city to replace the lead service line  can "contribute" $1,000 for timely replacement or have that work  "deferred to a later phase." The $1,000, with no interest, can be paid  over a 12-month period through the quarterly water bill.

That  is about the concrete extent of the LSL program which the city is  undertaking. The time length to replace the lead lines - which were  installed between 1985 and the 1880s - will be at least a year, going by  the "contribution" and "deferred" phases.

The  cost, according to, is to run between  $3,000-$7,000 per line. The city is pursuing "State funding" to keep the  individual owner's "contribution" down to $1,000.

The  City Council, responding to last June's lawsuit by the Natural  Resources Defense Council, had approved in August a $75 million bond  issue to replace the said lines. That replacement was to be done in 10  phases over the next eight years.

What  brought Mayor Ras Baraka to call an 11 a.m. Friday press conference at  City Hall on the matter was a New Jersey Department of Environmental  Protection Lead and Copper Rule Compliance Study's latest results  released a week earlier.

The study found most of the said 18,000 lines tested had at least 15 parts of lead per billion per liter of water.

The  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers 15 ppb per liter as  requiring action. One line sampled in June registered 185 ppb per liter -  12 times the acceptable level.

The  DEP, in its latest study, the third conducted in the last 18 months,  concluded that Newark's corrosion treatment plan to combat lead in water  contest is not working. That plan, using sodium silicate since 1994,  had been tested every two years by the DEP into 2017.

Baraka, in the City Hall B21 Press Conference Room Friday, was joined by two pyramids of PUR filter boxes.

"The  drinking water is safe; Newark has some of the best drinking water,"  said Baraka. "The problem is that our infrastructure isn't safe. The  corrosion control being used hasn't been effective in various parts of  the North Ward, parts of the South Ward, the West Ward and the Central  Ward; the East Ward has been unaffected."

Lead  service lines, which transfer water from city owned mains to  households' internal plumbing, are in the eye of this storm. So are  copper service lines that use fittings containing lead in the solder  and/or fittings.

Lead,  as seen in the March 2016 Newark Public Schools water emergency, can  build up in pipes and fittings depending on the lines' frequency of use.  Water service lines are usually owned by the property owner.

The  latest development comes while the city battles the NRDC over water  lead content the last two years. The NRDC, on Sept. 5, asked a Superior  Court judge to have Newark supply 10 cases of bottled water - at 24  half-liter bottles a case - delivered to families at risk.

The  NRDC also called upon Newark Sept. 5 to provide filters to households  where there are pregnant women and/or children six years old or under.  Those groups are now under Friday's filter distribution program.

The following is a summary of steps to take during the filter distribution and service line replacement:

1.) Know if your address has an affected service line.

One  can look at the color map. Its blue-shared  area - enveloping the East Ward and parts of the North, Central and  South wards may not need the additional filter.

Housing built 1986 or later should not have lead pipes or fittings since that year's ban.

One  can scratch the exposed, non-painted line leading from the water meter  or use a magnet. Lead pipes will turn from a dull color to a shiny  silver-like hue. Magnets will not stick to lead or copper lines.

One can also call the Newark Water Department to schedule a free test.

2.) Should your service line and/or fittings have lead;

A.) Get a filter.

Filters  are available from Newark City Hall, 920 Broad St., the Health and  Wellness Center at 110 William; The Water and Sewers Facility at 239  Central Ave; Boylan Recreation Center, 916 South Orange Ave; Hayes Park  West Recreation, 179 Boyd, St; JFK Rec Center, 211 W. Kinney St.; Vince  Lombardi Center of Hope, 201 Bloomfield Ave.; St. Peter's Rec Center,  378 Lyons Ave. Check website for special extended hours.

"Local  Talk" sought and received a filter within three minutes of walking into  the Water and Sewers Facility, a former Dodge dealership, Oct. 17. One  is directed to an office where an employee checks one's address  identification on a computer database. One gets a PUR filter box, the  two-sided explanatory sheet and lead service line replacement form.

The  employee told "Local Talk" that one can get a free MAXION replacement  filter every three months for the next year. One can run cold water  through the PUR filter - provided that one flips a switch on the unit.  However, according to one “Local Talk” staff who installed a filter at a  relative’s home, the directions indicated that running hot water  through the filter would damage it.

B.) Consider the LSL Replacement Program. 

Homeowners  reading this may want to see if the $1,000 "contribution," paid without  interest over the next four quarterly water bills. The program will not  apply if you have already replaced the line by yourself.

Tenants are to forward the form to their landlord.


By Lev D. Zilbermints

NEWARK  - Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the City of  Newark, its officials and the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department  of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), alleging that the tap water in  Newark is unsafe to drink due to high concentration of lead.

The  lawsuit names the City of Newark; Newark Department of Water and Sewer  Utilities; its Director, Andrea Hall Adebowale; Newark Mayor Ras Baraka;  and Catherine McCabe, the Commissioner of New Jersey Department of  Environmental Protection as defendants. Plaintiffs allege that the City  of Newark, its officials and the NJDEP Commissioner have violated the  Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal law that protects the public from  harmful contamination in their drinking water.

The  two environmental groups filing the lawsuit are the Natural Resources  Defense Council (NRDC) Inc., and the Newark Education Workers Caucus  (NEW Caucus). NRDC, based in New York, was founded in 1970. It has more  than 12,000 members who reside in New Jersey. Of these, 30 - plus are  Newark residents. According to court documents, NRDC is an  international, non-profit environmental organization. It engages in  research, advocacy and litigation to protect public health and reduce  the exposure of all communities to toxic substances.

Newark  Education Workers Caucus (NEW Caucus), according to court documents, is  an association of educators who teach in Newark public schools. Some  members of NEW Caucus live in Newark. The mission of NEW Caucus,  according to the lawsuit, is to unify Newark educators in support of  social justice initiatives in Newark, both for educators as well as for  their students and students' families.

At  a press conference held at Paradise Baptist Church on June 26, both NEW  Caucus and NRDC presented their case to the media and the public.  Speakers noted that Newark failed to comply with Open Public Records Act  (OPRA) requests regarding water contamination. Court records show that  on April 24, 2018, NRDC and NEW Caucus served Newark a 60-day notice of  intent to sue the city and the State of New Jersey for violating the  Safe Drinking Water Act. At the same time, the city was sued in court  for failing to comply with the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.

On  June 22, 2018, the Superior Court of New Jersey in Newark ruled that  Newark had violated OPRA by failing to comply with OPRA's statutory  timelines and other provisions. The court ordered Newark and its city  clerk, Kenneth Louis, to release records requested by the NRDC within 20  days, and to pay attorneys' fees and litigation costs.

Dangerous levels of contamination - Effects of lead on children and adults

According  to the NRDC fact sheet, 10 percent of water samples collected by the  city in 2017 showed lead levels above 26 parts per billion. Court papers  state that the "lead action level", or critical point, is 15 parts per  billion. Federal law states that the water system has to take additional  steps to protect its customers against lead exposure.

The  fact sheet goes on to say that "about 20 percent of the city's samples  showed lead levels above the 15 parts per billion level - with some  samples coming in at three, even nine times higher."

According  to the NRDC, "Newark has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned  children in New Jersey for years." Lead exposure has serious and  irreversible health impacts such as fertility problems, nervous system  damage, cognitive dysfunction, and other problems. The lawsuit states  that poorer academic performance, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity  Disorder, developmental delays are effects of lead on young children.  Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable, NRDC said in its  fact sheet. In adults, exposure to lead can cause nerve disorders,  decreased kidney function, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal  damage, muscle and joint pain, memory and concentration problems and  high blood pressure.

NRDC urges residents to get their water tested by calling 973-733-6303 or emailing

Al  Moussab, president of NEW Caucus, told Local Talk, "I think that the  city administration needs to do more to ensure that residents have safe  drinking water. One of the claims in the lawsuit is how they are  sampling the water."

During  the June 26 press conference held at Paradise Baptist Church in Newark,  Moussab told the assembled press and public that his organization  joined the lawsuit in order to force the city to provide lead free water  to its residents.

"Access  to safe water should be a basic right for everyone. However, for many  working class people it is not. By joining this lawsuit, we hope to hold  the city and state governments accountable for providing safe drinking  water to every home and school in Newark,” Moussab said.

Chris  Canik, a teacher at Central High School, said that boiling water does  not remove lead. Instead, lead becomes more concentrated after boiling.  The only way to remove lead is "specific filters that remove lead. Not  all (Newark residents) can afford filters,” Canik said.

According to Canik, Central High School has filters installed at water sources.

Non-Compliance with Federal Law

According  to the lawsuit filed by NRDC and NEW Caucus, in 2017-2018 the NJDEP  issued two notices of non-compliance to Newark under the Lead and Copper  Rule. Court records show that between July and December 2017, Newark  again exceeded the 15 parts per billion federal action level for lead in  drinking water. Since Jan. 1, 2018, over 10 percent of samples taken  have exceeded the 15 parts per billion, and a sample from one Newark  residence contained levels as high as 182 parts per billion, court  papers stated.

The  lawsuit states that "over the course of the last three six-month  monitoring periods, Newark has obscured the severity of its lead problem  by filling its 100-sample quota with sites that are less likely to show  elevated lead levels. This ongoing dilution of sampling results with  lower priority sites that are less likely to have elevated lead levels  suggests that the City has routinely underestimated its lead levels and  will continue to do so in the future."

In  2017, Newark had 131 Tier I polling sites within its sampling pool,  court records show. Of these, samples were collected from only 40 sites.  And during the second six-month monitoring period of 2017, Newark  collected samples from 88 Tier I sites.

A  map presented at the press conference showed that large parts of East  and Central Ward in Newark had no sampling done. West Ward had the most  problems with drinking water.

Newark Submits A Rebuttal of Statements in the Lawsuit

Andrea  Adebowale, Newark Director of Water and Sewer Utilities, issued the  following statement to the public and the press on June 26: 

“The  lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council is based on the  premise that Newark residents are exposed to dangerous levels of lead in  the City’s drinking water. That charge is absolutely and outrageously  false. The truth is that the water supplied by the city is pure, safe  and fully complies with federal and state regulations. The NRDC has  seriously mischaracterized the facts.

“They  cite the high levels of lead found in the water in Newark schools. It  has been incontrovertibly established that the lead in the schools’  water was introduced by pipes and fixtures within the schools and that  there was no lead contamination introduced by water from the City’s  mains. I am baffled as to why the NRDC makes the innuendo that the  Newark water system was responsible for the problem in the schools.

“The  City’s water is not contaminated with lead. The NRDC makes a false  comparison with Flint, Michigan. Although the City received a violation  for Lead Level Exceedance, we have been compliant with state and federal  rules regarding dealing with such violations and have met all the  required milestones. The City has sent out public notification and  public education materials and will continue to do so.

“In  Newark, the City owns the water mains, but doesn’t own the service  lines that connect the water supply to homes. Any lead in the drinking  water stems from the privately owned lead service lines, not the water  we deliver. The service lines are the responsibility of homeowners. The  City has obtained funding from the State and is already implementing a  plan to help property owners replace all of the approximately 15,000  lead service lines in the city at an estimated cost of $60 million.

“Our  sampling revealed that the water in some homes with lead service lines  exceeded the action level. This is the result of the fact that some  homes built before 1986 may contain lead service lines. The average for  water samples taken from January to June of last year from these homes  was 27 parts per billion.

“The  City has launched the Lead Service Line Replacement Program. It is a  10-phase program with the first phase already in operation. In May, 3000  residents received letters asking if they want to participate in Phase  One of the program. There is a nominal cost to the homeowner, 10% of  replacement costs up to a maximum of $1,000. Additionally, the City is  conducting a corrosion study and continued sampling.

“The  City received several OPRA requests from NRDC, beginning in early Fall  of 2017. They allege that the City and State are not complying. However,  we were able to provide most of the information. Any information that  we were unable to provide was never in our possession.

“Contrary  to the allegations of the NRDC, Newark has conducted a corrosion  control study in 1994 and consequently implemented a corrosion control  program to minimize the leaching of lead from service lines. We sell  water from our system to other municipalities, including Pequannock  Township, Bloomfield, Nutley, Belleville, Elizabeth, and Wayne. If our  source water was contaminated, we would not be allowed to sell our water  to them.

“Unfortunately,  when City took over operation of its Water Treatment Plant in June 2013  from the bankrupt Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation,  very few records were turned over to us. Some of the information  requested by NRDC about corrosion control was maintained by the previous  operators and was not given to the City when we took over. NRDC has  requested reports that we simply do not have. We advised them that at  the time that we did not have the information. All information in our  possession has either already been provided to NRDC or has been made  available for review and inspection at City Hall, yet they sue us for  documents that we simply do not have and have been unable to obtain.

“Contrary  to the allegations of the NRDC, the City has conducted an extensive  public information campaign to inform residents of the lead service line  problem. We have sent mailings to property owners, held public  meetings, broadcast public information announcements on our municipal  cable channel, held telephone and Facebook live town halls, issued news  releases, published and distributed brochures and created a website  devoted to this issue. This is a continuing effort to inform property  owners and residents.

“The  Bottom line: Our water is safe. It is our goal to be transparent and  keep our residents informed every step of the way. Again, we reiterate  that Newark’s water meets all federal and state standards and that this  issue is confined to a limited number of homes with lead service lines.  We have completed an inventory of lead service lines and are providing  free lead testing for any homeowner who suspects that their service line  might be made of lead.”

Contact the City of Newark for more information on Newark lead service lines and how to replace them.