News Feature | July 4, 2018

Newark Sued Over High Lead Levels

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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The city of Newark is being sued over what an environmental group calls “dangerously high” lead levels in tap water.

“Tests done by the city in 2018 have shown some taps inside Newark homes are testing as high as 12-times federal danger level for lead in drinking water,” PIX11 reported, citing results obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“The suit contends that the city is not meeting federal standards for testing and monitoring and is not providing appropriate treatment systems. The Department of Environmental Protection requires that the water be tested for lead two times a year. NRDC claims the city did not test 91 of Newark’s 131 high-risk sites,” NPQ reported.

NRDC argues that Newark’s lead levels are among the highest recorded by a large water system in the nation.

“In 2017, across the water system, more than 10 percent of samples had lead levels above 26 parts per billion, nearly twice the federal action level of 15 parts per billion. The trend has continued into 2018, including one recent result as high as 182 parts per billion,” the group states.

The lawsuit alleges that the city tests taps that are less likely to show high lead levels, according to PIX11. The lawsuit also claims that the city has not been transparent enough about the lead threat.

Newark water officials are fighting back against the claims. Andrea Hall Adebowale, the head of Newark’s water and sewer department, stated that Newark tap water is safe to drink.

“We think [the lawsuit] has no credibility. The city has been very transparent about this issue all along,” she said, per News 12 New Jersey.

Adebowale stated that lead levels are linked to residential problems, not to the city water system. She said the city is in the midst of replacing lead service lines as part of a $60 million project that will take eight years to finish.

“We have identified about 15,000 to 18,000 homes that have lead services lines. Yes, that’s a large number. I’m not trying to say it isn’t. But we feel like it’s manageable,” she says.

NRDC Attorney Claire Woods spelled out the rationale behind the lawsuit.

“Newark’s water is corrosive, causing lead pipes to release too much of this toxic chemical into the drinking water flowing to residents’ taps. If it takes filing a lawsuit to end violations of federal drinking water law, we’ll do it,” she said, per PIX11.

Image credit: "Water Drop," Smitha Murthy © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/