NEWARK, NJ - Bottled water distribution to those affected during Newark's lead water contamination crisis will end next week, with authorities promoting the use of city-delivered filters to address the issue going forward.
“Our message is simple: the filters work, use the filters,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement, referring to testing results released last month that demonstrated that the filters are now almost all effective. "Those numbers make us comfortable to move forward without bottled water."
Bottled water distribution will end on Tuesday, October 8. Pregnant women and families with children under six years of age will still be able to pick up two cases of bottled water every two weeks. Pregnant women and young children are most at risk for lead exposure. Exposure to high levels of lead before and during pregnancy can cause premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, and problems with the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system, among other issues.
Initial testing results from the combined efforts of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the City of Newark showed that after collecting 1,700 samples from more than 300 Newark homes, more than 97% of PUR filters issued by the City reduce lead below 10 parts-per-billion, which is below the federal action level of 15 parts-per-billion. Officials further emphasized that combined with flushing water taps, results show that 99% of PUR filters issued by the City reduce lead below 10 parts-per-billion.
In October 2018, the city began handing out what would eventually amount to over 38,000 free water filters. But in August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed testing results showing that out of three filters provided to Newark residents by the city to reduce lead in the water to safe levels, two had failed to work.
At the same time, the EPA urged Newark residents after the city announced the filter failure to use bottled water for drinking and cooking until the results of the filter testing are fully understood and additional sampling was performed. Bottled water was then distributed in the western half of the city who are serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant, where lead corrosion control measures became ineffective.
Despite the improved testing results released last month, the EPA has stated that it will not comment on bottled water distribution or on the initial test results until the full report is completed.
The city began to replace lead service lines in March, with the time to replace all of Newark's 18,000 antiquated lead lines initially estimated to be eight to 10 years. Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. then announced in August that the county will lend the city $120 million via a 30-year bond to be used exclusively for the lead service line replacement program, a move then approved by city ordinance. The lead line replacement program is now estimated to be completed in 24 to 30 months.
Pregnant women and families with children under six years of age can continue to pick up bottled water at the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center and the Newark Department of Health.
The health department is located on 110 William St. Bottled water will be available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 - 4:30 p.m., Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., and the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The Shani Baraka Center, located at 300 Clinton Ave., is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Water filters and replacement cartridges will be available at the following three recreation centers:
- St. Peter’s Recreation Center, 378 Lyons Ave.
- Boylan Street Recreation Center, 916 South Orange Ave.
- Vince Lombardi Center of Hope, 201 Bloomfield Ave.
The hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc. will be donating 3,000 cases of bottled water to the Newark Water Coalition on Saturday, October 5 at 9:30 a.m. The water will be available for all families at St. Lucy’s Church, located at 118 Seventh Avenue in Newark.