Statewide Lead Line Replacement Suggested Amid Newark Water Crisis

Gov. Phil Murphy announced recommendations made by a task force to combat lead statewide.

NEWARK, NJ - Some initiatives Newark has embarked upon to combat its lead water contamination problem are being suggested statewide.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Thursday the state would embark on a “goal” of removing and replacing all lead service lines in New Jersey within the next 10 years.

The announcement came as Newark continues what it has called an aggressive push to replace all of the city’s lead service lines in the next two years after elevated levels of the chemical contaminated the city’s drinking water supply.

Murphy punctuated his speech in Trenton with references to Newark’s lead water problem but then diverted to the notion that it also plagues the state and the rest of the country.

“Lead service lines are not just a Newark issue nor are they just an urban problem,” Murphy said. “This is a problem that is clustered across many of our older suburbs. Lead service lines and connections are just as easily found in Monmouth County’s well-heeled shore communities. They are found in small towns and rural counties, such as Stanhope in Sussex County.”

That bill, which the president signed into law last week, would allow states to transfer up to $100 million from the federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in an effort to address lead water contamination in drinking water across the country.

That October was the same month city officials began distributing free water filters to residents after Mayor Ras Baraka acknowledged he was unsure exactly when a chemical used to prevent lead from dissolving into pipes stopped working after an engineering firm recommended the city use new corrosion control measures.

The replacement of all lead service lines across the state was inspired by the program Newark has undertaken, said Daniel J. Van Abs, an associate professor at Rutgers University who also served on the task force. 

So was a recommendation inspired by legislation passed by the City Council that would encourage the state legislature to adopt a measure that would allow the replacement of lead service lines without a property owner's permission.

Kareem Adeem, Newark’s Water and Sewer Utilities director, also served on the task force.

Murphy’s announcement came on the same day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was making the first major overhaul of its Lead and Copper Rule since 1991. 

The rule aims to require utilities to take inventory of lead service line and make it available publicly. It would also require corrosion control treatment that establishes a new “trigger level” of 10 parts per billion when it comes to water test sampling results.

Chris Daggett, Chairman of the Lead in Drinking Water Task Force and a former state Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, said the task force also made recommendations based on the impact of the lead water crisis that plagued Flint, Michigan as well as what was happening inside New Jersey.

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