NEWARK, NJ - An ordinance that would mandate the replacement of lead service lines – even without a property owners permission – was unanimously advanced by the Newark City Council on Thursday.

The measure was sent to the council by Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration who billed it as a first of its kind for any major U.S. city to replace every lead service line at no cost to residents.

Property owners can either sign up for the city’s lead service replacement program or choose to replace lines at their own expense within 90 days of the ordinances effective date.

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But for the first time, the ordinance takes the program one step further. If the city cannot find a property owner or they don’t sign up for the program it would be “empowered to take all necessary steps to come on the property, without signed permission, to replace the lead service line,” according to a statement by the mayor’s office.

“Newark is a city of renters and too often landlords either can’t be found or show a lack of interest in this important health initiative,” Baraka said in a statement. “This ordinance will enable the City to replace all lead service lines and to do so quickly.”

Newark Corporate Counsel Kenyatta Stewart said while the state was considering similar legislation, the city opted not to wait for it to take its course through the state’s legislative process so that “Newark will get shovels in the ground faster.”

A public hearing and final passage of the bill is expected at the City Council’s Sept. 18 meeting.

The council on Thursday also advanced an ordinance related to a $120 million loan from Essex County to replace lead service lines.