Governor Phil Murphy, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other New Jersey officials today will share preliminary findings of lead testing results in and around Newark. The officials will report findings from tests of water in an additional 300 houses, which revealed under 10 parts per billion of lead in homes employing filters.
A DEP-led conference call with officials ended a short time ago, in advance of the scheduled press conference in Newark City Hall.
That’s below the Environmental Protection Agency’s 15 parts per billion threshold, and will be welcomed today as good news – but above the Private Well Tasting Act Program’s safe threshold of five parts per billion.
From the EPA: Lead concentrations in drinking water should be below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion. EPA – Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems and information on chemical and microbial contaminants.
In a city where 29,000 people must depend on bottled water in the midst of the lead contamination crisis, 97% of the filters work at this time, according to the study’s findings, and officials plan to appropriate $1 million as part of an educational initiative.
“What it means is that lead levels are high,” NJ Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Tittel told InsiderNJ. “It’s still an issue, just not as drastic or desperate as it was a few weeks ago. We still have to look at where those houses were. You can monkey with water tests. They’re still high. There is a serious lead problem in Newark.”
Officials continuing to work toward a major, multi-million dollar long-term solution.
DiVincenzo last month announced that the Essex County Improvement Authority will bond 120 million for the City of Newark “to use only for its pipe replacement program.”
“We are able to borrow money at a significantly lower rate,” said DiVincenzo, who – in the middle of ongoing political tensions in the Democratic Party – over the last number of days met with Baraka, whom the county executive praised for addressing the lead contamination crisis.
DiVincenzo said the county is uniquely poised to help the city because it enjoys a triple A bond rating.
Even if residents can again rely on filters, the 38,000 nationally-certified filters were only a stopgap solution. The city is fixing the treatment that caused lead from old pipes to leach into the water and replacing those underground pipes citywide over the next three years.
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