NEWARK, NJ — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved two contracts to two utility contractors that will conduct parts of the first phases of the Newark’s lead service line replacement program citywide.
The Linden-based Underground Utilities Corporation was awarded a nearly $4 million contract while the Newark-based Roman E&G Corporation won a more than $3.5 million bid. Both utility contractors will replace 500 lead lines each in contracts that span about nine months concurrently.
The money for the contracts comes from part of a $75 million loan the city secured in 2018 from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank. That loan was intended to pay for the city’s lead service line replacement program before Newark secured a $120 million loan from Essex County to speed up the timing of the project, chief water engineer John George said.
By the city’s count, it has so far replaced 1,800 lead service lines since construction on the program began in March, the city’s acting water director Kareem Adeem said. The city plans to replace all 18,000 lead service lines serving residents in Newark over two years.
George and Adeem said there is enough money left from the utility bank loan to pay for one more contractor, which is currently in the re-bidding process.
The money secured by the city from the $120 million loan will begin to be processed and used for the lead line service program by next month, Adeem said.
While the city’s lead service line replacement program has been financed by the bank loan months before the lead water crisis erupted in August, the Essex County loan intends to speed up the citywide project from 10 years to 24 to 30 months.
Mayor Ras Baraka has said that $155 million the city is receiving from the Port Authority will help pay the debt service on the $120 million loan from Essex County.
The city’s lead water crisis sent Newark into the national spotlight in August after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, concerned that testing on two of three city-issued water filters had failed, recommended residents impacted by elevated levels of lead be given bottled water. That program ended at the beginning of October with authorities promoting the use of city-delivered filters to address the issue going forward.