NEWARK, NJ - The city, after receiving four violations for elevated lead levels since 2017, is set to begin replacing lead service lines to about 1,500 homes beginning next month.
It will take eight years and $75 million to remove approximately 15,000 lead service lines across Newark, the city has said. The pipes are on private property, so homeowners will have to pay about $1,000 out of pocket for the replacement. It would typically cost up to $10,000, but that price is reduced due to a bond program that was made possible through new state legislation.
“I would like to thank Governor (Phil) Murphy, legislative leaders and the City Council for working together with us to provide the initial funding necessary to make the Lead Service Line Replacement Program possible,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. “This is a major milestone toward modernizing Newark’s water infrastructure for our families, and we look forward to putting shovels in the ground soon.”
The mayor also penned an open letter to President Donald Trump in January, calling on him to help fund repairs to Newark's deteriorating water infrastructure. The letter called the lead issue a "crisis."
Lead has been leeching off from residents’ pipes because the corrosion control inhibitor the city treats its water with became ineffective, according to a city-commission study.
City council on Friday gave a final vote of approval for the assessments on the first phase of the project. Residents will be able to pay off the out-of-pocket costs in quarterly installments, according to the ordinance that was passed last week.
Phase 1 is expected to take one year to complete, the city said. The work will be done by private contractors who were selected through a competitive bidding process.
Applications for the first phase of the lead service replacement program opened in April 2018, the city said. The most at-risk residents received additional outreach to encourage them to sign up for the program, according to a city press release.
The city anticipates phase 2 of the program to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2019. There is no deadline for homeowners to apply for the program and selection is distributed evenly in each ward on a first come, first serve basis, the city said.
The city began to distribute lead filters in October after it officially released information about the draft report that pointed to what was causing lead levels to increase in Newark. To date, about 33,000 filters have been distributed, the city said.
In October, city officials said it would take six to eight months to implement a new corrosion control inhibitor that will prevent lead from falling off from pipes.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Newark Education Workers Caucus filed a lawsuit against city and state officials in June last year, alleging they violated federal regulations that cause lead levels to rise.
Residents can learn more about the lead service line replacement program online. Lead filters may be picked up at the following seven locations:
• Boylan Recreation Center – 916 South Orange Ave.
• John F. Kennedy Recreation Center – 211 West Kinney St.
• Vince Lombardi Center of Hope – 201 Bloomfield Ave.
• St. Peter’s Recreation Center – 378 Lyons Ave.
• Hayes Park West Recreation – 179 Boyd St.
• Water & Sewer Facility – 239 Central Ave.
• Health Department – 110 William St.