News Feature | April 4, 2016

Fixing Lead Problem In Newark Could Cost $1 Billion

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Officials in Newark, NJ, are making entreaties for state and federal funding to help solve the city’s lead contamination crisis, saying the cleanup could cost over a billion dollars.

Mayor Ras Baraka recently weighed in, per NJ Advance Media: "It's a huge undertaking to just deal with the water systems in the schools, and then the infrastructure problems that we have as a city would be huge of course. We don't have the money and the resources to do that."

"Newark cannot be responsible for billions of dollars to fix the water issue," he added.

In March, Newark officials banned water service at public schools in what is the largest New Jersey school district after testing showed elevated lead levels.

Newark Public Schools “told the State Department of Environmental Protection on [March 7] that annual testing found concentrations ranging from undetected to above the department’s action level for lead, which is 15 parts per billion. That level requires additional testing, monitoring and remediation,” the Associated Press reported.

Officials said they have since identified additional schools with high lead levels.

“Nearly a quarter of the water samples collected in the school buildings tested last week had lead concentrations above 15 parts per billion, which is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for taking action. The Newark school district said on Thursday that 76 of the 324 samples were above that agency’s action level, but that only 16 — or about 5 percent — came from water fountains or other sources of drinking water,” The New York Times reported on Thursday.

But the problem goes far beyond Newark, according to the city’s mayor.

"They are making discoveries that this issue is not just a Northern Jersey problem. There has to be a statewide problem," Baraka said, per NJ Advance Media.

It remains unclear who will pay for upgrades in Newark. State lawmakers are looking for ways the legislature can help combat the problem.

“Baraka said he had met with the city's state senate delegation and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) to discuss how to build support for a bill that would create a 10-cent bottle deposit in the state, proceeds from which would be dedicated to updating outdated water systems,” NJ Advance Media reported.

For information about removing lead from water, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.