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.
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 Newarkleadserviceline.com, 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 newarkleadserviceline.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.