First Flint, Now Newark: 30 Schools in New Jersey Report Lead-Poisoned Water, Students Ordered to Drink Bottled Water Only

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Valerie Wilson, center, school business administrator for the Newark Public Schools system, speaks at a news conference addressing recent finding of lead levels in Newark schools, Wednesday, March 9, in Newark, N.J. Standing with Wilson are Cristopher Cerf, left, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools, and Anthony Ambrose, acting director of public safety for Newark. Elevated levels of lead caused officials in New Jersey's largest school district on Wednesday to shut off water fountains at 30 school buildings until more tests are conducted, officials said. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Valerie Wilson, center, school business administrator for the Newark Public Schools system, speaks at a news conference addressing recent finding of lead levels in Newark schools, Wednesday, March 9, in Newark, N.J. Standing with Wilson are Cristopher Cerf, left, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools, and Anthony Ambrose, acting director of public safety for Newark. Elevated levels of lead caused officials in New Jersey’s largest school district on Wednesday to shut off water fountains at 30 school buildings until more tests are conducted, officials said. (Julio Cortez/AP)

It turns out Flint, Michigan is not the only place suffering from contaminated water.

According to The Huffington Post, Newark, New Jersey schools are reporting cases of discolored and lead-poisoned water in 30 schools. The outbreak has caused the school district and the state Department of Environmental Quality to implement the use of bottled water.

Like in Flint, the problem has been caused by aging pipes.

“The problem is localized in the finite number of schools, and those are the schools that are the oldest and still have lead piping,” said Frank Baraff, Newark city communications director, in an interview with The Huffington Post. “At this point, the main recommendation is… don’t drink the water in any of the schools.”

Baraff said the situation was so serious that parents have been taking their children to local hospitals to test for high levels of lead. Lead poisoning can cause a host of health problems in children, such as behavioral issues, slowed mental development and problems concentrating.

Flint residents have also reported rashes and hair loss from using contaminated water. There have also been 10 deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, which is believed to be related to the water.

Eighty percent of Newark’s 300,000 residents are non-white, according to Huff Post. Fifty three percent of them are Black. According to a 2011 Patch article, 30 percent of Newark residents live in poverty.

Former Newark mayor Sen. Corey Booker said his staff was monitoring the situation and willing to offer support.

“I am deeply concerned to learn that 30 Newark schools have tested for elevated levels of lead. As evidenced by the public-health crisis unfolding in Flint, lead in our drinking water is a national issue that requires a robust response from every level of government,” said Booker in a statement. “Under no circumstance should the health and safety of our children be jeopardized, particularly when they are supposed to be in the confines of a safe learning environment.”

Huff Post said Flint’s water problems are not rare. City officials in Sebring, Ohio and Jackson, Mississippi have also reported high levels of lead in their water.

According to environmental experts, America is sitting on a time bomb when it comes to aging water pipes. The Atlantic reported the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation a “D” in the drinking water category. The report also stated the country’s drinking-water infrastructure was “nearing the end of its useful life,” and would cost $1 trillion to replace. The National Resource Defense Council, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, has reported 19 cities with deteriorating and out-of-date water systems.

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