BLOOMFIELD, NJ – In the ongoing, year-long effort to educate residents about the possible buildup of lead in older homes and methods to reduce exposure, Bloomfield Township Council hosted a Community Public Forum on Monday evening, August 19 at the Civic Center on Broad Street prior to the Regular Council Meeting.
Hundreds of residents from Bloomfield and Newark, and several major media outlets jampacked the Civic Center, a small venue but the only option due to the renovations at the Council Chambers in the Municipal Building.
Mayor Michael Venezia and the Council discussed the findings of recent lead tests in Bloomfield’s water connection systems and residential homes, as well as informed residents how they can reduce their risk of lead exposure.
Township engineers and officials from the Health Department attended and answered a slew of questions from residents, as Health Officer Mike Fitzpatrick, Township Administrator Matthew Watkins and Township Engineer Paul Lasek were on hand to discuss the remediation.
The agenda focused on recent testing of Bloomfield’s water interconnections, tests of the homes of residents with older plumbing, the testing of Township-issued PUR water filters, and important information that residents need to know.
The Township enters a new phase of an infrastructure project to update public water mains and meters and follows an announcement that two lead-filters distributed by the City of Newark were not fully eliminating lead build-up.
In the past week, Bloomfield has run expedited lab tests for residents with PUR filters given out by the Health Department, which confirmed these Township-issued filters were working as expected.
PUR activated carbon filters are considered industry standard and have been found to remove 99.9% of lead found in water and reduce the level of Chlorine by-products.
Bloomfield receives water from Newark at three interconnections sites, including Garrabrant Avenue, Grove Street and Bloomfield Avenue, and Broad Street. and Bloomfield Avenue. All residents and businesses receive their water from one of these sites.
Independent testing of the Township’s water at each of the three interconnection areas confirmed the water passes EPA guidelines for lead levels, meaning the issue is with the pipes through which water passes, particularly in older homes with plumbing fixtures that pre-dated 1986.
“At each location, results showed an undetectable amount of lead content,” said Township Administrator Matthew Watkins. “However, we owe it to our residents to provide them information and tools necessary to reduce lead levels in their homes. The Township is also spending millions of dollars to clean and re-line our water mains.”
A 2019 test of 69 Bloomfield homes found 11 had elevated levels of lead and exceeded the purity standard or action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) established by the EPA.
A 2018 test of 64 Bloomfield homes showed nine homes with levels of 15 parts per billion. To put that stat in perspective, 15 parts per billion equals 15 drops in an average-sized swimming pool. It’s small, but still exceeded the limits.
During the question and answer portion of the forum, officials stressed to the audience that one way to reduce traces of lead built up in faucets is to allow your water to run for at least 30 seconds prior to use.
In addition to the water cleaning and lining project, the Township is replacing Service Line connections to homes that are found to contain lead. So far, 46 Service Line connections have been replaced.
Additionally, the Township is building a new water pumping station on East and West Passaic Avenues to change water providers, moving to the Wanaque system run by North Jersey Water District.
“The water that the Township receives through our provider in Newark arrives to our water system with no detectable traces of lead, but some residents with homes that have plumbing that predates 1986 may have lead build up in their faucets and pipe fixtures, which is why we have been providing free lead test kits through the health department and trying to provide residents other educational resources,” said Mayor Venezia.
Parents of young children should have their children tested for lead exposure.
The Township is continuing to offer free lead tests to any residents concerned about potential lead build-up in faucets and plumbing fixtures of their homes. Residents can schedule a lead test or get additional information by calling 973-680-4024.