More than a year after Newark officials declared water in the city “absolutely safe to drink,” the city is handing out bottled water to residents after testing Friday showed water filters may not be as effective as once thought.
Testing results showed two of three water filters sampled “may not be removing lead to the low levels expected by city, state and federal officials,” according to a city statement released Monday.
Newark officials are asking residents in the Pequannock service area who have lead services lines to use bottled water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula while water is being tested in the area.
“At this time, the City is aware of only two residences where water filters are not working as expected,” the city said in the statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the City is notifying residents that some filters may not be working as expected.”
The city, which has a population that is 50 percent Black, has been working to improve water issues since October of 2018.
“As has been previously reported, water testing in Newark indicated elevated levels of lead in single and multi-family homes with decades-old lead service lines or plumbing containing lead,” the city said in its statement. “Elevated levels are due to the releasing of lead from plumbing and lead service lines on private property between the street and approximately 15,000 homes.”
Since last year, Newark officials have distributed more than 38,000 water filters and cartridges, provided free water testing to affected residents and offered free blood testing to children younger than 6 years old in impacted areas.
The city also replaced more than 700 lead service lines since March and installed a new temporary corrosion control treatment system in May.
“Experts expect to see a reduction in lead levels by the end of the year,” Newark officials said in its statement.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a letter Atlanta Black Star obtained that the agency is “unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their health is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices.”
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy together released a statement Sunday that the city is expanding the testing of filtered drinking water to more Newark homes and that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is “working with the filter manufacturer to determine the scope of the situation.”
“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,” Baraka and Murphy said in the statement.
It’s unclear if Newark officials got the support they were asking for, but the Environmental Protection Agency has said in its statement that it “has invested, and will continue to invest, significant time and other resources in Newark.”