NEWARK, NJ — The latest tests of Newark’s water show a steady decrease in lead levels, continuing the trend from last May when the city introduced a new corrosion control system, according to Mayor Ras Baraka and Water and Sewer Utilities Acting Director Kareem Adeem.

"Ninety percent of the water we tested has fallen very close to the acceptable federal level of 15 parts per billion,” Adeem said. “As of December, our parts per billion were down to 17.3 in 90% of the samples.”

The December reading is a 74% drop from last February and the decline in lead-levels has been dropping steadily since May, when the new orthophosphate anti-corrosion program began.

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“The effectiveness of the orthophosphate is gradual, so we expect to see the lead levels continue to drop,” Adeem said. He explained these results were from “first draw” samples of unfiltered water.

“We take the samples from pipes where the water has been stagnant for hours, for instance, overnight. This will always make lead levels read higher because the water has been sitting in the lead line,” he said.

“Also, this is water not run through the filters we have given residents,” Adeem said.

The nearly 40,000 PUR filters distributed by the city have proved to be 99% effective in the removal of lead to minimal levels, such as one or two part per billion, the same levels found in bottled water.

In the meantime, the city continues to replace household lead-service lines. The city has replaced 4,556 lead lines to date, more than 25% of the 18,720 that the city is taking out in one of the nation’s most ambitious infrastructure programs of any kind.

At a rate of about 85 line replacements per day, the city will be the first in the nation to change that bulk of lead lines that quickly at no cost to residents.