$120M bond program to fix Newark lead water crisis

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. announced a $120 million bond program Monday to fast-track the city’s long-term plan to fix its lead water crisis.

The money will be a much-needed boost for Newark officials, as cries from residents to fix the problem grow louder.

Newark’s lead crisis has been compared to the one in Flint, Michigan, where the water source was contaminated.

“There never has been lead in the source water,” Mayor Ras Baraka explained Sunday.

“The water goes from the reservoir to the main lead service lines in people’s homes. The issue is that they have lead service lines, and the lead leaches from pipes and gets into the water because our corrosion control stopped working some time ago.”

Newark started replacing 18,000 old lead pipes in March, but the program was slated to take more than eight years and cost $75 million.

This new bond money upfront will help the city speed that process up.

Lead levels in Newark spiked in 2017, but the problem escalated this month when the federal government asked the city to distribute bottled water.

The EPA request came after tests revealed that the 39,000 water filters the city had distributed might not be working.

“This was based on three tests, three homes a few weeks ago, so there’s a much more aggressive testing going on as we speak, into the hundreds, we probably won’t know the results for three more weeks,” Governor Phil Murphy said Sunday.

The Governor also defended his decision not to call a state of Emergency. “You call a state of emergency, I think, when you’ve exhausted all of your resources… we’re just not there yet.”