NEWARK, NJ — As Newark continues to roll out a series of measures to combat high lead levels affecting residents and consumers, the city’s focus remains on service line replacements, home abatements, and updates to its water treatment plant, Newark officials said at two virtual meetings last week updating residents.

“We are committed to protecting our most valuable resource,” Newark Water and Sewer Department Acting Director Kareem Adeem said. 

As of Feb. 18, Adeem reported the city has replaced more than 17,000 lead service lines, visited more than 20,000 homes for lead abatement work and are still paving streets, which began in December and is expected to pick back up in spring. The director also explained that for all of 2020, the city didn’t meet compliance for Haloacetic acids and Trihalomethane levels, but said the city has seen recent reductions. 

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Adeem did say, however, that Newark met compliance for two consecutive quarters in 2020 for lead and copper levels from January to June and July to December.

The service line replacement effort came on the heels of an earlier announcement in January when the city and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection resolved a three-year legal battle with groups who filed suit against the city in 2018 over the handling of its lead water crisis.

A settlement was submitted to federal courts requiring Newark to continue its ongoing efforts on lead service line remediation, provide free water testing and other measures. In under two years, Newark has replaced a majority of its service lines through a $120 million loan from Essex County, bringing the program to its final stages.

If completed, officials said it will be able to claim that no city in America has eradicated such a volume of lead lines as quickly and mostly through its own financing, with no cost to residents in either capital outlay, tax increases or water rate hikes.

The city water and sewer director said last week that the city recently entered into a pair of contracts with two vendors who are each expected to replace 1,500 service lines by June. 

In addition to service line replacements, the city has also undertaken various upgrades to its Pequannock water treatment plant to prevent corrosive water distribution through the city’s pipes and homes. The plant is managed by Newark and services 500,000 customers in North Jersey. 

In May 2019, the city launched a new corrosion control treatment to create a protective coating in its pipes to prevent lead from leaching into the water. 

Tom Schoettle, a representative from CDM Smith, who is involved in the city’s lead service line removal program, 

“We’ve made some considerable progress,” Schoettle said. “The latest project that we are going to be taking with the city is the upgrade of the Pequannock water treatment plant — a filter upgrade type of project which is already underway.”

The CDM Smith representative explained that the project is going to add a clarification process in addition to its existing filters.

“The purpose of this additional treatment stage is to do two things: To help the city increase the capacity of the treatment plant, presently, so we can get more water to the city, but to also address some of the organics and constituents — contaminates that we want to remove from the water to aid and take some of the burden off of the filters,” he said. 

The city’s next public update on its water will be hosted by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on March 11 for “The State of Water” virtual town hall event at 7 p.m.

City officials said that residents can request a free water filter and/or replacement cartridge by calling 973-733-6303 or email waterandsewer@ci.newark.nj.us

 

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