Newark water crisis will get another $155M to help with lead line replacement

It is the latest response to the city’s lead water crisis, which has drawn national attention.

About a month ago, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. announced a $120 million loan to Newark with the aim of replacing 18,000 old pipes, which connect individual homes to underground mains, within 24 to 30 months.

Lead levels in Newark spiked in 2017, but the problem escalated this summer when the federal government asked the city to distribute bottled water. The request came after alarming tests questioned whether the 39,000 water filters Newark distributed as a short-term solution were working to reduce lead as expected.

Newark began scaling down its bottled water distribution last week after preliminary testing of more than 300 filters showed 97% of them worked to remove lead from the tap water.

Newark residents receive water from one of two systems: the Pequannock treatment plant and the Wanaque plant. The lead crisis is primarily impacting residents who live in the South, West and parts of the North and Central wards serviced by the Pequannock plant.

The water treatment process at the Pequannock plant meant to prevent lead from leaching off old pipes stopped working, which caused the elevated lead levels. The city has changed its treatment process, but the effects of that are not expected to be seen for months.

The long-term solution to the problem is replacing the lead service lines. Though those lines belong to the individual property owners, Newark is replacing them free of charge.

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