By Frederick H. Lowe
Newark, N. J. Mayor Ras Baraka announced the city had begun distribution of bottled water to a certain neighborhood because of elevated lead levels in the drinking water caused by corrosive lead pipes. The bottled water distribution is similar to what had occurred in Flint, Michigan, another American city with a large African-American population.
Mayor Baraka and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the bottled water distribution began Monday.
The bottled water is available in Newark’s Pequannock service area. Distribution of bottled water is available at four locations.
City of Newark Department of Health and Wellness, 110 William Street
Bo Porter Sports Complex, 378 Lyons Avenue
Boylan Street Recreation Center, 916 South Orange Avenue
Vince Lombardi Center, 201 Broomfield Avenue
Since October, Newark has distributed more than 38,000 lead-safe water filters and cartridges. However, city officials said some of the filters might not be working as well as expected and more testing is needed to determine why.
Newark officials urged residents to use bottled water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula.
Elevated levels of lead have been found in approximately 15,000 homes, city officials said. In May, Newark began operating a new corrosion control system to replace the one that’s no longer effective.
High levels of lead in the drinking water is dangerous to young children, infants and fetuses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or more.
City officials also are working with the Department of Environmental Protection and a filter manufacturer to determine the scope of the situation and to determine appropriate corrective action.
Newark is offering free blood testing for children under six at the Department of Health and Community Wellness by calling 973 733 5323. The city also is replacing 700 lead service lines with assistance from the state. Residents also can call the Department of Water and Sewer Utilities at 973 733 6303 or visit https://www.NewarkLeadServiceLine.com.
Newark is New Jersey’s largest city with a population of 281,000. The community is 50 percent African American.
Flint began distributing bottled water in 2016, although concern about the high lead content in the drinking water was first raised in 2014, but it was ignored by state officials.
In Michigan, the state’s governor and other state officials initially ignored the high lead levels in the drinking water after Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha called attention to the problem.
It was celebrities, including Cher, Michael Moore and others who responded by sending bottled water to Flint. However, Mayor Baraka and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy have worked together to address the problem.
Michigan stopped giving away free water to Flint residents in 2018, although many are still concerned about the quality of the tap water. As of March 30, 2019, Flint’s population was 96, 448, 000 In 2018, the black population was 53.9%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.