NEWARK, NJ - The Washington, DC-based firm defending Newark in a lawsuit over the city’s lead water contamination crisis is getting yet another six-figure paycheck from New Jersey’s largest municipality.
The City Council on Wednesday approved increasing the professional services contract with the Beveridge & Diamond environmental law firm by $240,000. That brings the total cost of the contract to more than $840,000 the city has paid the firm over the last year.
It is the third time the cost of the contract was increased since October 2018. The firm was initially awarded a contract of $100,000 that October then was granted another $500,000 in May 2019, according to the council resolution.
The Natural Resources Defense Council along with the Newark Education Workers Caucus filed the lawsuit against the city in June 2018 suing over what it alleged was violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The NRDC maintains Newark has exceeded the federal action level for lead in Newark homes since January 2017. It was not until October 2018 when city officials acknowledged the problem and began handing residents free water filters, the same month the city entered the contract with Beveridge & Diamond over its water issue.
A spokesman from Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration did not return a request for comment.
The appropriation approval by the City Council to the law firm came one day after Baraka announced that at least some of the additional $155 million the city received from an extended lease agreement with the Port Authority would pay the debt service on a $120 million loan from Essex County to replace all 18,000 lead service lines in the city.
That project is expected to take at least two years.